One obvious sign of bulimia nervosa is a swollen face. In fact, face swelling is so common that's often referred to as "bulimia face" or "chipmunk cheeks".
Many people who suffer from bulimia find this effect to be one of the most troubling because it makes them feel like they have a fat face when in fact, it's simply swelling due to the forced vomiting.
The facial swelling occurs because the body gets dehydrated from vomiting. As the body begins to dehydrate, it automatically starts to store water, typically in the parotid glands. These are the glands ring the jawline and the sides of the face. When these glands swell, it gives the face a swollen look.
This occurs in approximately 10–50% of patients, depending on the frequency of vomiting.
Swelling can also occur when daily self-induced vomiting suddenly stops. The same glands, the parotid glands swell, causing the the face to look swollen.
At first, this swelling will occur on occasion, however, eventually it persists. Research suggests it can take 3-6 days after a bingeing-purging episode for the swelling to appear.
The appearance of "chipmunk cheeks" may suggest symptoms of bulimia. However, before questioning or accusing someone of having an eating disorder, experts recommend you first talk to a medical or mental health professional.
If you or someone you know is seeking mental health care for an eating disorder, check out the over 90,000 therapists listed on Monarch.
National Eating Disorders Association
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