Thousands of young girls are skipping insulin jabs to stay slim. They are doing this at the risk of of blindness, heart disease and even death.
Diabetes UK says that ups to a third of young women with the disease miss the life- saving injections or drastically reduce the dose so they can stay thin. This is equivalent to almost 3,000 teenage girls.
Sufferers of Type 1 diabetes, which often develops in childhood or adolescence, need daily injections to manage their condition as the pancreas does not produce any insulin. The substance helps the body process blood glucose. As the glucose keeps circulating and the blood sugar levels keep rising, it produces rapid weight loss as the body is starved of energy.
The practice of missing injections- which is sometimes called "diabulimia" - can have severe health consequences. It can speed up the development of other illnesses related to the disease such as blindness, heart failure and kidney disease. Cardiovascular disease can result from long periods of insulin abuse as well as nerve damage. This dangerous practice can also induce a diabetic coma and even death.
The type 2 form of the disease develops later in life and is associated with lifestyle factors such as obesity.
Medical experts in the United States recently raised concerns, calling for young adults to get urgent treatment to help them manage the problem. After this Dozens of young women have contacted a phone-in on BBC Radio 1 to report that they skipped injections because they felt under pressure to lose weight.
Victoria Hunter, from Glasgow, abused insulin in her teens. She said: "If I knew I had a party coming up at the weekend and wanted to fit into a lovely outfit I would maybe skip all my evening injections and lose up to half a stone in a week."
Sarah Caltieri, 27, told that as a teenager she was determined to lose weight by dieting like her friends. But she was blind by the age of 23 after years of abusing insulin injections. Ms Caltieri, an aspiring actress and singer from Leeds, said: "She told me one woman had fallen into a coma but I still thought I could control it. I started lowering the dose I gave myself so I could eat less carbohydrates, but when you stop taking the insulin its like bulimia - the food just goes through you. By skipping the injections I could lose a huge amount of weight, but I was not aware of the damage I was doing."
A small study carried out by researchers in Oxford in 1999 examined the link between eating disorders and insulin misuse. Of 33 young women involved in the study, nearly a third admitted that they sometimes did not take insulin in order to control their weight.
"Diabetes is a chronic condition. Teenagers and young adults need appropriate and rapid access to psychological care and support to help them manage their condition effectively.
"There also needs to be improved transitional care services from children to adult diabetes services which, at present, do not always adequately address young adults needs." Diabetic UK stressed.