People with bulimia have an eating disorder that causes them to binge on food and then, usually, throw up the food during binge-and-purge cycles. Some people may exercise excessively or abuse diuretics or laxatives. Although there is no known cause of bulimia, people who suffer from the disorder tend to be perfectionists who strive to make others happy, and they may also be stressed or depressed. Genetics and social messages also contribute to bulimias development.
One of the most marked effects of bulimia is on the teeth and mouth. Frequent vomiting brings up stomach acid into the mouth, eroding teeths enamel. Cavities and gum infections are common in people with bulimia. The stomach acid also irritates the esophagus, producing heartburn, and the salivary glands, making them swell.
Bulimia harms the entire body. People with bulimia also tend to be constipated from laxative abuse and improper nutrition. Bulimics typically eat high calorie, low nutritional value foods like breads or ice cream. As a result, they may be undernourished and have dry skin, hair, and nails. Bulimia causes mineral and vitamin deficiencies and can lead to chronic kidney problems, including kidney failure. Dehydration is also common in people with bulimia. Undernourishment and dehydration lower the bodys electrolytes, causing an irregular heartbeat or heart problems. The effects can be serious. When potassium drops severely, it can cause the heart to stop, resulting in death.
Bulimia affects peoples mental and emotional well-being. These problems can come directly from bulimia, or bulimia may be a response to the other problems. People with bulimia may be tired and unable to perform at peak levels from the mental and physical stress bulimia puts on the mind and body. Depression, low self-esteem, and extreme perfectionism are common in people with bulimia. Bulimia can cause tension with family and friends, interrupting the lives of people with the disorder.
The most severe effect of bulimia is death. Ten percent of people with bulimia eventually die from its effects, usually from the electrolyte imbalance caused by dehydration.