Topic Overview

During a physical examination for eating disorders, the doctor will:

  • Check your weight and compare it with the expected weight for someone of the same height and age. In general, a body mass index (BMI) that is less than 18.5 in adults is considered underweight.footnote 1
  • Check your blood pressure, pulse, and temperature. Many people who have eating disorders have a sudden drop in blood pressure when they sit up from a lying position or stand up from a sitting position.
  • Listen to your heart and lungs.
  • Examine your belly for anything unusual.
  • Check your hands and feet for swelling.

Other physical signs include:footnote 2

  • Dry skin.
  • Irregular heartbeats (arrhythmia).
  • Thinning or dull hair on the head and unexpected fine hair growth on the body.
  • Low blood pressure (especially when you stand up).

Because vomiting is often part of an eating disorder, the doctor may also check for:footnote 3

  • Inflamed or diseased teeth and gums or erosion of tooth enamel.
  • Swollen glands in the neck.
  • Broken blood vessels in the eyes.
  • Teeth marks on the back of the hands or calluses on the knuckles from self-induced vomiting.
  • Sores in the mouth.



  1. Steering Committee on Practice Guidelines, American Psychiatric Association (2006). Treating Eating Disorders: A Quick Reference Guide. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
  2. American Academy of Pediatrics (2010). Clinical report: Identification and management of eating disorders in children and adolescents. Pediatrics, 126(6): 1240–1253.
  3. Fairburn CG, Harrison PJ (2003). Eating disorders. Lancet, 361(9355): 407–416.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer W. Stewart Agras, MD, FRCPC - Psychiatry

Current as ofNovember 20, 2015