Doctors estimate that around 40% of patients living with type 1 diabetes are affected by a lesser-known condition called diabulimia. In a recent documentary, BBC labeled the dangerous illness as the world’s most dangerous eating disorder.
So, what is exactly diabulimia? Prof. Jacqueline Allan told BBC that the condition affects type 1 diabetes sufferers and it is a combination of mental and physical illness. The diabetic refuses to get the necessary amount of insulin to keep diabetes in check out of fear of weight gain.
In other words, a patient diagnosed with diabulimia lives with both type 1 diabetes and a dangerous eating disorder. Type 1 diabetes is risky as well as it can push blood sugar (glucose) levels through the roof. So, regular insulin shots are required to keep glucose at healthy levels.
Diabulimia’s Health Risks
If the patient refuses to take the shots he’d start losing weight because his body will start munching on stored fat for energy. But that has a cost: hyperglycemia, or high levels of glucose in the bloodstream.
Hyperglycemia is often associated with polyuria, or excessive urination, which means that the calories from food are flushed out of the body nearly instantly. So, the body becomes starved as it lacks energy which enables every organ to work properly.
If the condition persists, the patient can develop diabetic ketoacidosis, which means the body has not fats to break down into calories and start consuming other types of tissue like muscles, which can be deadly. What’s more, uncontrolled high blood sugar levels can lead to other dangerous conditions such as vision loss, kidney disease, and heart conditions.
Doctors warn that diabetics are more prone to eating disorders as they tend to unconsciously rebel against diabetes. According to a U.K. report, 40% of young women diagnosed with type 1 diabetes suffer from diabulimia, but men can be affected too.
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