Diagnosis of Anorexia Nervosa

By  , Expert Content
Feb 23, 2012

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Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder, which can have visible effects on one’s health and eating habits, but there is no single test that can confirm the diagnosis of anorexia. The illness is diagnosed clinically by taking a detailed medical history and examination.

Medical history: The diagnosis and evaluation process involves a detailed history of the person with anorexia nervosa and an interview of the family members. Questions that the health professional may pertain to:

  • Weight history: weight in past, present body weight.
  • Eating habits and patterns: such as “do you strictly limit calories and fat, avoid eating and skip meals?”
  • Concerns about weight and shape: such as “do you try hard to maintain low body weight(low than normal weight for age and height)?” or “do you like to maintain a very thin body type?”
  • Dieting and weight-losing behaviours: such as do you use medications to urinate (water pills or diuretics), have a bowel movement (enemas and laxatives) or to decrease appetite (diet pills)?”
  • “Are there any problems in the family or other relationships?”
  • “Do you have physical and psychological problems (such as depression, anxiety) that occurred before the disorder started or may have occurred since the disorder started”

Physical exam: The doctor will do a thorough physical exam including checking your heart, lungs, blood pressure, weight, mouth, skin, and hair for problems from malnutrition.

Tests: A thorough medical evaluation such as blood tests and X-ray may be done to assess the physical problems that may have resulted from weight loss, vomiting and laxative abuse. Blood tests help to check for signs of malnutrition and assess the organ function such as that of the kidney. The X-rays can show if your bones have been weakened (osteopenia) as a result of severe malnutrition. An electrocardiogram may be done to see if the heart function is being affected by severe malnutrition.

These are some tests that may be done in a person with anorexia. Your doctor may recommend other tests to determine the effect of malnutrition.  Tests are done to diagnose physical problems that may affect treatment planning.



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