Teenage girls with diabetes often skip their insulin injections as a way of losing weight, sharply increasing their risk of eye damage, a study found.
Canadian researchers found that one-third of the adolescent girls at one hospital diabetes clinic regularly underdosed themselves with insulin.
“It can prevent weight gain, but it is a very dangerous thing to do,” said Dr. Gary M. Rodin, a psychiatrist who studied the problem.
Typically, children with diabetes gain about 10 pounds when they start taking insulin shots. However, often they are already underweight because of their disease.
Rodin and colleagues from a Toronto Hospital found that while eating disorders - especially binge eating - are common among adolescent teenagers with diabetes, by far the more serious problem is skimping on insulin.
Their study of 91 girls found 86 percent of girls with eating problems had early stages of diabetic retinopathy, a serious eye condition that can lead to blindness. By comparison, 24 percent of those with normal eating habits had the eye disorder.
The study was conducted on mostly normal-size girls between ages 12 and 18 who had type 1 diabetes. This condition, also known as insulin-dependent or juvenile diabetes, results from destruction of the body’s insulin-making cells and often strikes in childhood.
The young women were all patients at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children. The results were published in today’s issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Rodin said group counseling sessions for girls with diabetes and their parents appear to significantly reduce the girls’ habit of skimping on insulin.
“The silver lining is we think these disorders are extremely treatable,” he said.
Rodin said the researchers have also studied boys with diabetes but found no sign that they fail to take enough insulin.