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Blood Work and Lab Tests

Below is a list of some basic tests that are important for your doctor to do during your struggle with and recovery from an Eating Disorder. They should be done on a regular basis. Doctors, Eating Disorders Sufferers, and their loved-ones can use it as a checklist.


Blood Tests

  • Complete blood cell count (CBC) - The most common blood test performed by your doctor. This will check for things like low iron (anemia), infections, some cancers, arthritis and inflammations, and immune system functionality. The test does all this by checking your white blood cell count, red blood cell count and platelets count.

  • Electrolytes - Dehydration, malnutrition, self-induced vomitting and laxative and/or diuretic abuse can all cause imbalances in the electrolytes. Electrolytes are a specific combination of minerals that your body needs to maintain balance over to function properly. Common symptoms are leg cramps, heart palpitations, high or low blood pressure and swelling in the legs and feet. An electrolyte imbalance can lead to kidney failure, heart attack and death.

    • Potassium - An essential mineral in your body that helps maintain its delicate electrolyte balance. Common symptoms of depleted potassium are muscle cramps, problems with skin, continuous thirst, and decreased blood pressure.

    • Calcium - An essential mineral in your body that helps maintain its delicate electrolyte balance. Common symptoms of depleted calcium are arm and leg numbness, headaches, fragile bones, insomnia, and muscle cramps.

    • Sodium - An essential mineral in your body that helps maintain its delicate electrolyte balance. Common symptoms of depleted sodium are appetite loss, cramps, fatigue, eye disturbances, vomiting, confusion, and weakness.

    • Phosphorus - An essential mineral in your body that helps maintain its delicate electrolyte balance. Common symptoms of depleted phosphorus are appetite loss, bone pain, fatigue, irregular breathing, dental problems, and heart and kidney problems.

    • Magnesium- An essential mineral in your body that helps maintain its delicate electrolyte balance. Common symptoms of depleted sodium are aching muscles, anxiety, confusion, decreased blood pressure and body temperature, noise sensitivity, and rapid pulse.

      The above minerals are essential to electrolyte balance. You can also see a complete list of symptoms of vitamin and mineral deficiencies by clicking here

  • B12 and Folic Acid - This is a standard psychiatric bloodtest because of the important role Folic Acid and the B Complex Vitamins play in the onset of Depression and Anxiety. Lack of B12 and Folic Acid can lead to, or be caused by problems with the metabolism of protein, carbohydrates and fat, and with the body's ability to absorb nutrients.

  • Blood glucose (blood sugar) - can determine things like hypoglycemia and diabetes. A disturbance can be caused by dehydration and malnutrition and an elevated or low blood sugar level can be dangerous.

  • Kidney function tests (usually done every year) - Performed to determine poor kidney function, kidney disease or the risk of kidney disease posed by some medications.

  • Liver function tests (usually done every year) - Can be important in determining things like gallbladder disease, liver disease, over-exercising or if a patient has had a heart attack, because of the enzymes that might be found to be elevated.

  • Cholesterol - More common in those suffering with Compulsive Overeating, it is important to be sure that the levels of "good" and "bad" cholesterol are where they should be. High "bad" cholesterol (LDL - low density lipoprotein) and/or not enough "good" cholesterol (HDL - high density lipoprotein) can lead to a heart attack and death.

  • Thyroid function tests - This is an important test to be done initially to rule out any possible problems with the thyroid. This can also be an important test for a person in recovery who may be having a hard time gaining weight (Anorexia/Bulimia) or losing weight (Compulsive Overeating). Sometimes this test may help in assisting in the diagnosis of ADD/ADHD (which can play a role in the Eating Disorders of some individuals). The Thyroid is a gland that controls the body's metabolism -- people with an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroid) may have a problem gaining weight -- people with an underactive thyroid (hypothyroid) may have a problem losing weight.


Urine Tests

  • Ketones (or Ketoacidosis) - Ketones can accumulate in the blood rather quickly when the body is starved of food and nutrients. It indicates that the body is "eating its own fat" for energy. Accumulation of Ketones in the blood can lead to Ketoacidosis which can cause coma and death.

  • Complete Urinalysis - A urinalysis will help aid in the doctors ability to accurately diagnose a variety of systemic diseases and urinary tract disorders, as well as the function of the kidneys, urine sugar and ketone levels.


Other Tests

  • Blood pressure reading - for very low blood pressure (Anorexia and Bulimia) or very high blood pressure (compulsive overeating). It is also important for your doctor to check your pressure three different ways -- first laying down, then sitting and then standing -- to check your orthostatic blood pressure.

  • Bone density test - for any bone loss (osteopenia or osteoporosis) caused by calcium, vitamin D and/or magnesium deficiencies, and/or hormonal imbalances (Amenorrhea, loss of the menstrual cycle in women, can increase the risks of developing osteoporosis at an early age).

  • Electrocardiogram or Echocardiogram - for heartbeat irregularities if there is any complaint of the following: palpitations, shortness of breath, or pain or pressure in the chest.

  • Infertility Testing - Because Eating Disorders can lead to problems with fetal development, high-risk pregnancies and birth defects, any patient wishing to get pregnant should be well on their way to recovery, or recovered. Fertility tests will become necessary if a patient wishing to get pregnant is having trouble doing so.


You should also see the list of
Physical Dangers Associated with Having An Eating Disorder


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