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Anorexia nervosa
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed

Anorexia nervosa

Contributors: Vivian Wong MD, PhD, Lowell A. Goldsmith MD, MPH
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed


Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder of unknown etiology. It is associated with multiple medical and psychosocial complications. Patients are unable to maintain a body weight of at least 85% of ideal weight due to restriction of food intake, exercising, binge eating, and/or purging. Prompt diagnosis and treatment are critical as anorexia nervosa has significant mortality and morbidity. Weight loss and malnutrition cause serious injuries to multiple organ systems. Ninety percent of cases are seen in females. Onset is most common between adolescence and young adulthood. In males, anorexia nervosa is most common in athletes and men who have sex with men. Look for a tendency to over-exercise. The preferred body image is muscularity.

Patients with this disorder may have an increased risk of various general medical conditions.


F50.00 – Anorexia nervosa, unspecified

56882008 – Anorexia Nervosa

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Differential Diagnosis & Pitfalls

The constellation of systemic findings in an underweight patient should point to anorexia nervosa.

Bulimia – An eating disorder commonly seen in young females. Patients suffer from similar medical complications as with anorexia nervosa. As opposed to anorexia nervosa, patients do not undergo food restriction. Patients usually have normal weight. They exhibit repeated episodes of binge eating with guilt and anxiety, followed by self-induced vomiting and/or use of laxatives, diuretics, or enema.

Other cases of weight loss / Malnutrition include:
  • Starvation
  • Substance abuse
  • Physical child abuse
  • Mood disorder with loss of appetite or over-activity
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Schizophrenia spectrum disorders
  • Somatic symptom and related disorders
  • Occult malignancy
  • Endocrine disorders (Addison disease, Diabetes mellitus type 1, Hypothyroidism- or Hyperthyroidism, Hypopituitarism)
  • GI disorders (Celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease [Crohn disease, Ulcerative colitis], structural abnormality, Esophageal motility disorder)
  • Infections (Acquired immune deficiency syndrome, Tuberculosis, parasitosis)

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Last Updated:06/23/2021
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Anorexia nervosa
A medical illustration showing key findings of Anorexia nervosa : Amenorrhea, Dehydration, Malnutrition, Anorexia, HR decreased
Clinical image of Anorexia nervosa - imageId=6825984. Click to open in gallery.  caption: 'Numerous fine nonpigmented hairs on the forearm.'
Numerous fine nonpigmented hairs on the forearm.
Copyright © 2024 VisualDx®. All rights reserved.