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Could Your Teen Have Bulimia?

The eating disorder bulimia is dangerous to overall health, and especially harmful to the teeth. While both girls and boys can suffer from this condition, it’s much more common in girls. How can a parent tell the difference between typical adolescent concern about looks and the fixation with weight that marks bulimia?

Teens with bulimia generally go on eating splurges, called binges, then try to avoid gaining weight by purging with laxatives or throwing up. They also may exercise obsessively. Other warning signs could include:

  • Rough skin on the fingers or knuckles from inducing vomiting

  • Swollen cheeks or jawline

  • Front teeth that look clear at their edges or are worn from stomach acid

  • Irregular menstrual periods in girls

  • Using diuretics or water pills

  • An unusual preoccupation with calorie counting

  • Intense fear of gaining weight

  • Frequent use of the bathroom after meals

If you suspect your teen has bulimia, contact your child's health care provider for advice.

“Eating Disorders.” American Dental Association.  www.ada.org/2582.aspx?currentTab=2. Accessed 2013.

“Eating Disorders.” National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/eating-disorders/eating-disorders.pdf. Accessed 2013.

“Bulimia Nervosa.” Office of Women’s Health, Information Center, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, March 29, 2010. http://www.womenshealth.gov/mental-health/illnesses/bulimia-nervosa.html.  Accessed 2013.

“Eating Disorders.” American Academy of Family Physicians, November 2010. http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/eating-disorders.html. Accessed 2013.

“Eating Disorders.” National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, Revised 2011. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/eating-disorders/index.shtml. Accessed 2013.

Author: Poulton, Gail
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