Differential Diagnoses of Eating Disorders

There are a variety of medical conditions which may be misdiagnosed as an eating disorder such as Lyme disease which is known as the “great imitator”, as it may present as a variety of psychiatric or neurologic disorders including anorexia nervosa.

  • Addison’s Disease is a disorder of the adrenal cortex which results in decreased hormonal production. Addison’s disease, even in subclinical form may mimic many of the symptoms of anorexia nervosa.
  • Gastric adenocarcinoma is one of the most common forms of cancer in the world. Complications due to this condition have been misdiagnosed as an eating disorder.
  • Helicobacter pylori is a bacterium which causes stomach ulcers and gastritis and has been shown to be a precipitating factor in the development of gastric carcinomas. It also has an effect on circulating levels of leptin and ghrelin, two hormones which help regulate appetite. Upon successful treatment of helicobacter pylori associated gastritis in pre-pubertal children they showed “significant increase in BMI, lean and fat mass along with a significant decrease in circulating ghrelin levels and an increase in leptin levels” (Pacifico, L).”
  • H. pylori has an influence on the release of gastric hormones and therefore plays a role in the regulation of body weight, hunger and satiety,”(Weigt J, Malfertheiner P).
  • hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, hypoparathyroidism and hyperparathyroidism may mimic some of the symptoms of, can occur concurrently with, be masked by or exacerbate an eating disorder.
  • There are multiple medical conditions which may be misdiagnosed as a primary psychiatric disorder. These may have a synergistic effect on conditions which mimic an eating disorder or on a properly diagnosed ED. They also may make it more difficult to diagnose and treat an ED.
  • Lupus: psychiatric conditions have been associated with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), including depression and bipolar disorder.
  • Toxoplasma seropositivity: even in the absence of symptomatic toxoplasmosis, toxoplasma gondii exposure has been linked to changes in human behavior and psychiatric disorders including those comorbid with eating disorders such as depression. In reported case studies the response to antidepressant treatment improved only after adequate treatment for toxoplasma.
  • neurosyphilis: It is estimated that there may be up to one million cases of untreated syphyilis in the US alone. “The disease can present with psychiatric symptoms alone, psychiatric symptoms that can mimic any other psychiatric illness”. Many of the manifestations may appear atypical. Up to 1.3% of short term psychiatric admissions may be attributable to neurosyphilis, with a much higher rate in the general psychiatric population. Neurosyphilis like Lyme disease has been given the appellation the “great imitator” for it may present in various ways such as depression and chronic alcoholism. (Ritchie, M Perdigao J,
  • dysautonomia: a term used to describe a wide variety of autonomic nervous system (ANS) disorders may cause a wide variety of psychiatric symptoms including anxiety, panic attacks and depression. Dysautonomia usually involves failure of sympathetic or parasympathetic components of the ANS system but may also include excessive ANS activity. Dysautonomia can occur in conditions such as diabetes and alcoholism.

There are separate psychological disorders which may be misdiagnosed as an eating disorder.

  • Emetophobia is an anxiety disorder characterized by an intense fear of vomiting. A person so afflicted may develop rigorous standards of food hygiene, such as not touching food with their hands. They may become socially withdrawn to avoid situations which in their perception may make them vomit. Many who suffer from emetophobia are diagnosed with anorexia or self-starvation. In severe cases of emetophobia they may drastically reduce their food intake.
  • phagophobia is an anxiety disorder characterized by a fear of eating, it is usually initiated by an adverse experience while eating such as choking or vomiting. Persons with this disorder may present with complaints of pain while swallowing.
  • Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is listed as a somatoform disorder that affects up to 2% of the population. BDD is characterized by excessive rumination over an actual or perceived physical flaw. BDD has been diagnosed equally among men and women. While BDD has been misdiagnosed as anorexia nervosa, it also occurs comorbidly in 39% of eating disorder cases. BDD is a chronic and debilitating condition which may lead to social isolation, major depression and suicidal ideation and attempts. Neuroimaging studies to measure response to facial recognition have shown activity predominately in the left hemisphere in the left lateral prefrontal cortex, lateral temporal lobe and left parietal lobe showing hemispheric imbalance in information processing. There is a reported case of the development of BDD in a 21 year old male following an inflammatory brain process. Neuroimaging showed the presence of a new atrophy in the frontotemporal region.

Source : wikipedia

 

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One response to “Differential Diagnoses of Eating Disorders

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