Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Clinically apparent eating disorders in young diabetic women: associations with painful neuropathy and other complications.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987; 294 doi: (Published 04 April 1987) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987;294:859
  1. J M Steel,
  2. R J Young,
  3. G G Lloyd,
  4. B F Clarke


    Of 208 young women with insulin dependent diabetes, 15 (7%) had a clinically apparent eating disorder (anorexia nervosa or bulimia), a much higher prevalence than reported in non-diabetic women. Most, but not all, of these patients had a long history of poor glycaemic control. In contrast with previous suggestions, control did not deteriorate after the onset of the eating disorder. There was a high incidence and an early onset of diabetic complications. Eleven of the 15 patients had retinopathy, six with proliferative changes; six had nephropathy; and six neuropathy. Most strikingly, four patients with anorexia nervosa developed acute painful polyneuropathy. In each case pain started when the eating disorder developed, almost coinciding with the peak of weight reduction. Remission of pain occurred as weight was regained. The symptoms were accompanied by abnormalities in peripheral nerve electrophysiology and autonomic nerve function, some improvements in which accompanied weight recovery. It is suggested that nutritional factors may contribute to the high rate of early onset diabetic complications, particularly neuropathy.