Although not yet officially recognised as a medical condition, diabulimia is nevertheless a serious and emerging problem that can bring on rapid development of diabetes complications.
Experts predict that as many as one-third of young female diabetics could be suffering as a result of this condition.
Diabulimia is more common in females but is recognised as occurring in significant numbers of young males as well.
What is ‘diabulimia’?
Diabulimia is a term created to represent a condition of diabetic bulimia.
The condition occurs when insulin-dependant diabetics skip injection in order to lose weight. This type of disorder usually affects type 1 diabetics.
Young diabetics, who already have numerous issues to deal with, realise the potential weight loss possible by skipping insulin, without understanding how much they are damaging their bodies.
What are the signs of diabulimia?
Signs of diabulimia may include:
- Regular changes in weight
- Awkwardness over questions about diabetes control or injections
- Avoiding clinic appointments
- Having a high HbA1c compared with results entered in a blood glucose diary
Skipping injections will cause blood glucose levels to rise too high and therefore the following signs of hyperglycemia may be recognized:
- Being very thirsty
- Needing to urinate frequently
- Being abnormally tired in the day
- Having blurred vision
How does diabulimia work?
Diabetics who are reliant on insulin find that it is a storage hormone, and promotes fat. If patients miss injections, or manipulate dosage, they could theoretically reduce weight.
Diabetics can continue to manage their disease, but neither safely nor effectively.
Diabetic patients could avoid ketoacidosis and obvious signs of management failure, without realising the extent of damage that they are causing.
How does diabulimia affect the body?
The side effects of manipulating and omitting insulin from the body can be serious and dangerous, both in the short term and the long term.
Blood sugar levels can surge and reach an unhealthy level, leading to:
- Wearing of the muscle tissue and
- A much greater risk of ketoacidosis which can be immediately dangerous
In the medium to long term, the risk of suffering complications, such as retinopathy, neuropathy and kidney disease, is greatly increased. It is not uncommon for teenagers with diabulimia to develop complications within their twenties.
How does one treat diabulimia?
Diabulimia should be treated with psychological care and close monitoring.
It is common for people with diabulimia to stop skipping insulin injections once complications begin to develop or worsen but denial of the damage of high blood glucose levels can sometimes persist.