Is medical treatment required for abnormal heart rhythm due to bulimia?

Doctor's Answers (1)

Dr Ng Beng Yeong
5.0

"Psychiatrist with over 20 years of experience"

Yes, medical treatment is needed.

What is Bulimia Nervosa?

Bulimia nervosa is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by a cycle of bingeing and compensatory behaviors such as self-induced vomiting designed to undo or compensate for the effects of binge eating.

Effects of Bulimia

Bulimia can cause low blood pressure, a weak pulse, and anemia. For some individuals, vomiting can be a forceful activity. The sheer force of it can even cause the blood vessels in the eyes to rupture. It has been estimated that at any given point in time, 1.0% of young women and 0.1% of young men will meet diagnostic criteria for bulimia nervosa.

How Bulimia causes Arrhythmia 

Frequent purging can cause dehydration. This leads to weak muscles and extreme fatigue. It can also throw the electrolytes in our body out of balance and put a strain on the heart. This can cause an irregular heartbeat(Arrhythmia), and in some severe cases, a weakened heart muscle and heart failure. The electrolytes that tend to go missing from constant vomiting are potassium, magnesium, and sodium.

Effects of Bulimia induced Arrhythmia

Irregular heartbeat, caused by abnormal electrical activity, is a potentially life-threatening complication of chronic purging in Bulimia Nervosa. Starvation, fluid imbalance, or chronic purging may lead to serum electrolyte imbalance. These complications impair cardiac function and output.

Symptoms of Bulimia induced Arrhythmia

Common signs of arrhythmia include slowed or erratic heartbeat, low blood pressure, shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness and/or fainting. Untreated arrhythmias can lead to cardiac arrest or sudden death.

Other complications

In overweight or obese patients with eating disorders, the cardiac risk of having low potassium if the patient purges are still present.  Moreover, in obese patients with eating disorders, such as binge eating disorder, the risks of hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, and diabetes are high.  All of these can lead to cardiac complications such as atherosclerotic heart disease and congestive heart failure.

 

 

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