Diabulimia – an emerging health concern


**trigger warning for those of a sensitive nature***

First off, I want to clarify that this article is not encouraging eating disorders, it is merely trying to bring awareness to the public of a more niche disorder. If you do suspect anyone has or is at risk of an eating disorder I recommend talking to them, a GP or any charities.

With that all done, I hope this article provides an insight into a niche disorder. For most of us we know diabetes as insulin injections, blood glucose tests and often associate it with sugar. Similarly, we know of bulimia as a mental health condition, characterized by binge eating and purging.

Unfortunately, individually they each have a stigma associated with them; together in the form of diabulimia this stigma is only made worse and can have life-threatening effects if not handled and managed properly.

Individually people know of diabetes, they know anorexia and they know bulimia. But Diabulimia is something many don’t know about. Honestly, I didn’t know about it till I saw the headlines, even then I had to research a fair amount to understand just what it is.

But a new ‘trend’ among-st primarily young type 1 diabetic women has now resulted in the death of one, and a need to raise awareness and understanding of Diabulimia.

Admittedly it’s a niche condition, but so little is known about the disease although recent headlines have drawn to the life-threatening effects of it.

Whilst not medically classified, it has been under the radar of physicians and nurses, even academia from as early as 2007. So why hasn’t anything been done? And what can we do about it now? Due to the nature of Diabulimia it is particularly dangerous due to the health needs of diabetics, of type 1 diabetics moreso perhaps.

In recent news, it was noted a young woman passed away following a battle with Diabulimia. Whilst it hasn’t been medically classified yet, it is a growing problem affecting young girls who take insulin to treat type 1 diabetes.

Whilst not as common as more well-known eating disorders it is particularly dangerous in the way it is carried out. This is through the restriction and limitation of insulin injections (foregoing medical advice) to lose weight, with this comes deadly implications. It should be noted that, whilst the condition doesn’t always present as severe weight loss, it can also present as diabetics eating normally but manipulating the insulin dosages. The patients would normally take the bare minimum to function; but this comes at the cost of being consistently dehydrated, fatigued and irritable.

Insulin, as is well known is used to manage blood sugar in response to defective B-islets in the pancreas which are unable to produce it themselves. The restriction of insulin meant there was a significant increase in blood glucose levels resulting in hyper glycaemia, overworking the kidneys. Ultimately this leads to kidney failure and in time will result in death. Pathologies happen at an increased rate as above, such as nephropathy and retinopathy. (death of the kidney and cells of the eyes, respectively.)

As the body becomes starved of calories it becomes reliant on breaking down what it can e.g. muscles to try and gain energy; through a process known as glucosuria. As time goes on more and more organs are broken down leading to eventual organ failure.

The effects are horrific, not only on the individual but also on loved ones and close friends. But because it affects a small subset of individuals it’s not been formally recognized within the medical field. It is estimated 60% of women with type 1 diabetes suffer from it. The treatment is described as patchy at best due to the dietary and psychological aspect leading to the patients who need help most often being turned away due to the complexity.

With growing prevalence and a multitude of factors involved, the need to talk and be aware of this condition is become more and more important.

#GemmaNorth #Health

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