People with eating disorders may be surprised to find that their muscles begin to atrophy.

Atrophy is a wasting away of muscle and decrease in muscle mass due to the body feeding off of itself. Muscle atrophy results when the muscles waste away because there are a lack of adequate nutrients in the body to support muscle growth and function. When the muscle fibers lose bulk and length, it produces a visible loss of muscle size and contour and apparent emaciation or deformity in the affected area. Even slight atrophy usually causes some loss of motion or power.

Impaired muscular function can be caused by eating disorders, due to vitamin and mineral deficiencies (specifically potassium), and malnutrition. Atrophy can only be treated realistically, when the person has begun treatment for the eating disorder and whose nutritional intake is improving. Once malnutrition is less critical of an issue, then physical therapy may be needed, depending on the severity of the atrophy.

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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