However, research continues to determine if there is another explanation. We're talking about the avoidance of complications (eye disease, kidney disease, heart disease and serious neuropathies) in long-term patients with Type 1 diabetes. One of our patients, a 50+ year duration Type 1 diabetic, has been making regular trips to Boston to participate in the research project involving 351 total patients. These are all Type 1 diabetics of at least 50 years duration. Keep in mind these patients lived many years before we had any means of truly assessing the quality of blood sugar control -- there was no ability to self-monitor blood sugars or measure hemoglobin A1c. There was only urine glucose testing and we know that is notoriously inefficient, and, often misleading.
In a group of people who'd had type 1 diabetes for more than 50 years, nearly 43 percent remained free of serious eye disease, while about 87 percent never developed kidney disease, nearly 40 percent were free of nerve damage and more than 50 percent were free of cardiovascular disease, according to the study. "We have identified a group of people who can clearly live well with diabetes for a long time," said the study's senior author, Dr. George King, chief scientific officer at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston. "Now, we're in the process of finding out why. In the meantime, if you have type 1 diabetes, try to control your disease. The reason that most of them eluded the problem of complications is that they manage their disease pretty well," said King. But, this study found that even in this group of people who -- on average -- maintained good blood sugar control, some developed complications, while others appeared to have some sort of protection against them.
It has been established that better control of blood sugars usually relates to lower complication rates, but better control also raises the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), a potentially dangerous situation. The average hemoglobin A1c level in this group was 7.7% where non-diabetics generally run under 6.0%. Read the full article here for some possible explanations and how they may, someday, be part of the therapeutic regimens for diabetes.