Diabulemia is a new phrase for a phenomenon that is not very well-known. It is another form of bulimia, an eating disorder that typically strikes teens and young adults who are type 1 diabetics.
People with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin everyday for the rest of their lives, because their pancreas no longer produces it. Insulin helps the body process blood glucose by allowing the glucose to move out of the blood and into the cells for energy. When the body doesn't make insulin, glucose keeps circulating in the blood, rising to higher and higher levels. This produces many symptoms, one of which is rapid weight loss as the body is starved for energy.
The disorder occurs when teens with type 1 start to withhold their insulin doses in order to lose weight. Girls, typically, who are obsessively concerned about body image and being thin, may adopt this disordered pattern of skipping their insulin doses to just taking the bare minimum dose to survive.
This eating disorder is extremely dangerous. Blood sugar that is too high for too long can cause serious complications. Diabetes is the number one cause of blindness in this country. Cardiovascular damage is also a complication of long periods of high blood sugar. Complications can include:
In addition to these complications, diabetic ketoacidosis can also develop if blood sugar goes too high. This is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate emergency intervention and can be fatal.
What can parents do to help their teen? Kids with diabetes, who are not in good metabolic control, are more likely to suffer from the complications of uncontrolled blood glucose. Early treatment is important because the longer an eating disorder continues, the harder it is to treat.