Not All People with Type 1 Diabetes Develop Complications
People with type 1 diabetes are often told they are likely to face blindness, kidney problems, and amputations as they get older. But a recent study shows that many of those people are able to live healthy, normal lives with few, or even no medical complications, and scientists want to know why.
Researchers at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston looked at 351 people with type 1 diabetes who were diagnosed with diabetes more than 50 years ago, during a time when most of the blood sugar management tools used today were not available.
Less than half (43 percent) developed complications of the eyes and nerves, with about 50 percent reporting no cardiovascular disease. Nearly 87 percent of participants remained free of kidney disease. Thirty-five percent of those studied developed no complications at all.
"There's something in those 35 percent that protects them from diabetic eye, kidney, nerve and heart disease," says George King, M.D., senior author of the study.
People with type 1 diabetes must take insulin on a daily basis in order to avoid organ damage and death
"We have identified a group of people who can clearly live well with diabetes for a long time," Dr. King says. "Now, we're in the process of finding out why."
Researchers are looking at the role of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) as a potential cause of diabetes complications. AGEs are known to develop when blood sugar levels in the blood remain high for long periods of time. Scientists found that specific combinations of AGEs were 7.2 times higher in those with complications. But other combinations of AGEs were found to have the opposite effect, suggesting that it may be possible to keep destructive AGEs in check.
"This is a group of patients that manages things, rather than lets things manage them," he says.
Talk with your health care provider for more information.