Renal and Electrolyte Complications in Eating Disorders: A Comprehensive Review

Journal of Eating Disorders
By Leah Puckett, MD, MPH


Eating disorders are psychiatric disorders with significant and widespread medical complications, including renal disorders. Renal disease is not uncommon in patients with eating disorders but is often unrecognized. It includes both acute renal injury and progression to chronic kidney disease requiring dialysis. Electrolyte abnormalities including hyponatremia, hypokalemia, and metabolic alkalosis are common in eating disorders and vary depending on whether patients engage in purging behaviors. Chronic hypokalemia due to purging in patients with anorexia nervosa-binge purge subtype or bulimia nervosa can lead to hypokalemic nephropathy and chronic kidney disease. Additional electrolyte derangements are seen during refeeding, including hypophosphatemia, hypokalemia, and hypomagnesemia. Patients can also develop Pseudo-Bartter’s syndrome which leads to edema and rapid weight gain in patients who cease purging behavior. Clinicians and patients should be aware of these complications in order to provide education and early detection and prevention.

Written by

Leah Puckett, MD, MPH

Dr. Leah Puckett has been with ACUTE as a hospitalist since 2018. Dr. Puckett is also an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. She completed her…

ACUTE Earns Prestigious Center of Excellence Designation from Anthem
In 2018, the ACUTE Center for Eating Disorders & Severe Malnutrition at Denver Health was honored by Anthem Health as a Center of Excellence for Medical Treatment of Severe and Extreme Eating Disorders. ACUTE is the first medical unit ever to achieve this designation in the field of eating disorders. It comes after a rigorous review process.

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