CHILDREN in Wigan as young as 10 have received treatment for eating disorders, it has emerged.
Figures from by Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh (WWL) NHS Trust show 12 children, aged 10 to 15, have been taken to hospital after developing eating disorders in the last three years.
But there are fears the number of young people in the borough with conditions such as anorexia and bulimia could be much higher, with many choosing not to seek help.
Health chiefs today said they would be investigating to learn more about the prevalence of eating disorders among young people in Wigan.
John Marshall, assistant director commissioning for Ashton, Leigh and Wigan Primary Care Trust (ALWPCT), said: “The PCT is concerned about any child who develops an eating disorder and therefore commissions a comprehensive children’s eating disorder service across our area.
“The issue of eating disorders is also raised within mental health promotion programmes in schools.
“We do not have enough robust information at this time to reach any conclusion as to whether the numbers of children presenting with eating disorders is higher or not than would be expected.
“However we will be undertaking a needs assessment shortly which will establish whether or not our area has a higher prevalence of eating disorder than would be expected and whether children are presenting at a younger age.”
ALWPCT say eating disorders arise from worries about weight, shape and eating, especially among young girls.
Anorexia or bulimia are known to develop as a complication of more extreme dieting, often triggered by an upsetting event, such as family break-down, death or separation in the family, bullying at school or abuse.
Teasing from other pupils or even the pressure of school exams is also known to have been a trigger to more vulnerable sufferers.
Health chiefs say anorexia sufferers are known to worry about being fat - even if they are underweight - and eat very little.
Bulimia sufferers alternate between eating next to nothing, and then binge eating. They vomit or take laxatives to control their weight.
Both of these eating disorders are more common in girls, but do occur in boys.
Consultant child psychiatrist Dr Sandeep Ranote currently leads a team which provides support for young people in Wigan with eating disorders.
The scheme, which is run by the 5 Boroughs Partnership Mental Health Foundation Trust, has recently recruited the services of a specialist dietician.
ALWPCT added that parents of children concerned about an eating disorder should contact their GP in the first instance.