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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 July 2007, 00:53 GMT 01:53 UK
Diabetes eating disorder warning
By Helen Neill
Radio One Newsbeat

Injecting insulin
People with type 1 diabetes need daily insulin injections
Thousands of young women with diabetes could be skipping insulin injections to lose weight, the BBC has learned.

People with type 1 diabetes need daily injections to help them absorb glucose to use as fuel. Failure to take correct doses can lead to rapid weight loss.

Charity Diabetes UK estimates that up to one-third of young women with the disease miss injections to stay thin.

Doctors warn that the "diabulimia" eating disorder can lead to blindness, heart and kidney disease.

US doctors recently went public on their concerns about the practice.

Teenagers and young adults need appropriate and rapid access to psychological care and support to help them manage their condition effectively
Matt Hunt, of Diabetes UK

Since then, the BBC's Radio One Newsbeat has received correspondence from dozens of type 1 diabetics in the UK who say they have done the same.

Victoria Hunter, 26, from Glasgow abused insulin in her teens.

She told the BBC: "If I knew I had a party coming up at the weekend and wanted to fit in to a lovely outfit I would maybe skip all my evening injections, and lose up to half a stone in a week.

"I just felt pretty rotten all the time, and just had no quality of life, I was tired all the time, thirsty and irritable and had no energy to do anything."

She fears that her eyesight has suffered because of her 'diabulimia' and that she may have nerve damage in her legs.

Another young woman said: "I am a type 1 diabetic and skipped injections for years in a bid to lose weight. It is such a relief for this to finally be identified. It needs attention now in the UK."

Another listener said: "My sister is diabetic and uses her insulin to lose weight. It feels like her doctors don't understand the problem"

And one young woman added: "I'm diabetic and I skipped injections. I never realised other girls did this."

Matt Hunt, science information manager at Diabetes UK, said it was hard to know exactly how many young people are abusing their insulin, but the charity estimated it would be one in three young women with diabetes, which translates to about 3,000 people.

He added such abuse could lead to serious complications such as blindness, kidney disease and nerve damage.

"Teenagers and young adults need appropriate and rapid access to psychological care and support to help them manage their condition effectively."

One girl who stopped taking insulin to try and lose weight

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