Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any disorder in psychiatry. Eating disorders not only present with distressing behaviors and significant psychological stress, but they are associated with an array of effects on the physical body. All organ systems in the body can be effected including the cardiac, gastrointestinal, endocrine, reproductive, musculo-skeletal, immune, respiratory, and the central and peripheral nervous systems.
Medical complications of eating disorders include heart damage, cardiac arrhythmias, sudden cardiac arrest, renal failure, pancreatitis, thyroid abnormalities, liver failure, infarction/perforation of the stomach, aspiration, rupture of the esophagus, urinary tract infections, gastrointestinal bleeding, gastroparesis, hypokalemic nephropathy, dental erosions, osteoporosis and bone fractures, gynecological dysfunction/infertility, seizures, coma and death.
For this reason, it is necessary that patients with eating disorders be followed by physicians who are aware of the risks patients can pose to themselves and the signs and symptoms to look for upon examination. Regular, and at times frequent, laboratory tests are ordered to monitor disease progression and medical stability. These tests can include blood work, urinalysis, EKG, chest x-ray, and bone density scans.