Bulimia and Swelling of the Face

Bulimia and Swelling of the Face

Bulimia nervosa is a serious eating disorder in which people find themselves in the middle of a dangerous cycle of binge eating and purging. A typical binge eating episode will see someone consuming a large amount of food over a short period of time, feeling out of control; a typical purging session will involve someone trying to “undo” the effects of the previous eating binge. They may do so by forcing themselves to throw up or abusing tools like laxatives or enemas. It is important to look out for signs linked to bulimia, as the disease could cause sudden death in extreme cases due to problems such as cardiac failure and electrolyte imbalances.

Bulimia and Facial Swelling

Swelling of the face is among the many possible physical signs of bulimia. Sometimes referred to as “bulimia face,” this phenomenon can occur as the body reacts to dehydration from self-induced vomiting. This reaction involves the body retaining as much fluid as it can, which appears most obviously in the parotid glands which are found on the side of the face and around someone’s jawline. 

Another time a person with bulimia may experience a swollen face is during recovery. If someone has been throwing up daily for a while and suddenly stops, the parotid salivary glands may also swell, which is what causes the appearance of swollen cheeks, otherwise known as “bulimia cheeks.” While this can upset patients especially as they are trying to recover, the swelling will go down after a few weeks and will remain that way as long as the patient does not resume self-inducing vomiting. However, if they begin throwing up frequently again, it is very likely they will develop swollen cheeks once more the next time they stop.

Other Physical Symptoms of Bulimia 

Other symptoms that may come with bulimia nervosa include:

  • Thinning of hair on the head
  • Cuts and/or calluses across the tops of finger joints from induced vomiting
  • Sleep issues
  • Stomach cramps
  • Other non-specific gastrointestinal issues such as acid reflux or constipation
  • Dry skin
  • Abnormal laboratory and blood work findings, such as low hormone levels, anemia, slow heart rate, low blood cell counts, low potassium
  • Yellow skin from eating lots of carrots
  • Dental issues, such as enamel erosion, tooth sensitivity, cavities, and discoloration
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Noticeable weight fluctuations
  • fainting/syncope
  • Poor healing of wounds
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Muscle weakness
  • Cold, mottled hands and feet
  • Swollen feet
  • Impaired immune system functioning
  • Constantly feeling cold
  • Dizziness
  • Dry, brittle nails
  • Lanugo, or fine hair all over the body

Finding The Help You Need

While bulimia nervosa is an illness that can cause severe harm, it is important to remember that it is treatable. However, no two treatment and recovery journeys may be the same, as everyone’s particular situation will be different. One way to find support is by contacting an eating disorder hotline. If you or a loved one is experiencing a crisis, however, you can text “NEDA” to 741-741 at any time to receive support from a trained individual.

Additionally, we are here to help you at Eating Disorder Recovery Specialists. You may contact us via phone (866-525-2766), email, or by filling out our contact form.

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