An estimated one-third of anorexic patients have mild anemia (low red blood cell count). Anemia makes the oxygen transporting units within the blood useless and can lead to fatigue, shortness of breath, increased infections, and heart palpitations.

The type of anemia found in people with eating disorders is Vitamin Deficiency Anemia. It is also known as megaloblastic anemia, occurs when the body lacks appropriate levels of vitamin B-12. Vitamin B-12 is necessary to create red blood cells and ensure proper working of the body’s nervous system. Those with intestinal disorders, autoimmune disorders or an eating disorder often develop this type of anemia.

Vitamin deficiency anemia has been known to cause numbness in hands and feet, memory loss and vision complications. If anorexia becomes extreme, the bone marrow dramatically reduces its production of blood cells, a life-threatening condition called pancytopenia, explains Harvey Simon, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Eating Disorder Self Test. Take the EAT-26 self test to see if you might have eating disorder symptoms that might require professional evaluation. All answers are confidential.

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