Which physical findings are characteristic of anorexia nervosa?

Updated: Jun 10, 2019
  • Author: Bettina E Bernstein, DO; Chief Editor: Caroly Pataki, MD  more...
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Although patients with anorexia nervosa may show obvious emaciation, they can present anywhere along the spectrum of weight loss. Moreover, they may attempt to hide their weight loss by wearing bulky clothing or many layers.

Focus the physical examination on the changes commonly observed in anorexia nervosa. Vital sign changes include hypotension, bradycardia, and hypothermia. Other changes include the following [1] :

  • Dry skin

  • Hypercarotenemia

  • Lanugo body hair

  • Acrocyanosis

  • Atrophy of the breasts

  • Swelling of the parotid and submandibular glands

  • Peripheral edema

  • Thinning hair

Patients with purging behavior may have callouses to the dorsum of their dominant hand and dental enamel erosion.

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