Young diabetic women are so terrified of gaining weight that they're risking their lives by skipping their insulin jabs, recent investigation has revealed.
Type 1 diabetic women between the ages of 15 to 30 are at risk of falling prey to a new image disorder which risks their health and could make them gravely ill.
Known as diabulemia, the condition is defined when sufferers avoid giving themselves their essential insulin shots to prevent them from picking up weight – a side-effect of taking insulin. If left untreated, it can result in disastrous or fatal consequences.
Experts warn that this problem is becoming more widespread.
Organisations such as Diabetics with Eating Disorders are now campaigning for the condition (officially known as Eating Disorder-Diabetes Mellitus Type 1) to become medically recognised and proper treatment provided for diabulemics.
Type 1 diabetics are dependent on insulin shots because their pancreas cannot produce this vital blood-sugar controlling hormone essential to the human body. These diabetics need to inject themselves with insulin every few hours to stay healthy. However, administering insulin often results in diabetics gaining weight and this can be particularly difficult for young image-conscious women or those recently diagnosed, experts say.
Unexplained weight loss is one symptom of type 1 diabetes, however, when the person begins using insulin, this weight is often regained which can have a negative impact on some.
American support group Diabulemia Helpline says type 1 diabetics are two-and-a-half times more likely to develop an eating disorder than other women. In fact, research suggests that as many as 40 percent of diabetic women are diabuliemics.
Experts say the health consequences of diabulemia are dramatic. When someone with type 1 diabetes does not take their insulin, their blood-sugar level increases. Since there isn't insulin in the body (which converts glucose into glycogen for energy for our day-to-day tasks) the accumulation of glucose is excreted into the urine and all that unused energy is lost.
The person will feel tired and the body will then resort to burning its own fat and protein reserves, sometimes muscle too. If left untreated important organs can be affected too.
When this happens, highly acidic byproducts known as ketones are produced that are very toxic to the body and which can cause major complications such as blindness and kidney failure. The risk of infertility and digestive problems increases greatly too.