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Physical Exam for Eating Disorders

Physical Exam for Eating Disorders

Topic Overview

During a physical exam for eating disorders , the doctor will:

  • Check your weight and compare it with the expected weight for someone of the same height and age. In general, a body mass index (BMI) that is less than 18.5 in adults is considered underweight. 1
  • Check your blood pressure, pulse, and temperature. Many people who have eating disorders have a sudden drop in blood pressure when they sit up from a lying position or stand up from a sitting position.
  • Listen to your heart and lungs.
  • Examine your belly for anything unusual.
  • Check your hands and feet for swelling.

Other physical signs include: 2

  • Dry skin.
  • Irregular heartbeats ( arrhythmia ).
  • Thinning or dull hair on the head and unexpected fine hair growth on the body.
  • Low blood pressure (especially when you stand up).

Because vomiting is often part of an eating disorder, the doctor may also check for: 3

  • Inflamed or diseased teeth and gums or erosion of tooth enamel .
  • Swollen glands in the neck.
  • Broken blood vessels in the eyes.
  • Teeth marks on the back of the hands or calluses on the knuckles from self-induced vomiting.
  • Sores in the mouth.

References

Citations

  1. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health (2000). The Practical Guide: Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults (NIH Publication No. 00-4084). Available online: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/obesity/prctgd_c.pdf.
  2. American Academy of Pediatrics (2010). Clinical report: Identification and management of eating disorders in children and adolescents. Pediatrics, 126(6): 1240–1253.
  3. Fairburn CG, Harrison PJ (2003). Eating disorders. Lancet, 361(9355): 407–416.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer W. Stewart Agras, MD, FRCPC - Psychiatry
Last Revised April 11, 2012

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

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