By now, most people probably are aware that the tighter your blood sugar control is, the fewer complications you’re likely to suffer down the line. Still, I like to remind myself of this fact whenever I can — since so many things about diabetes are uncontrollable, I find it comforting to know that there are certain things I can influence.
So it was nice to see this article referencing a study that found that diabetic vision problems have declined over the past 25 years, due mostly to tighter control. The researcher, Dr. Ronald Klein, looked at 995 type 1 diabetics in Wisconsin who were part of the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT — the one that definitively proved that control makes a difference). He found a 25 percent decrease in the incidence of proliferative retinopathy, which is the most advanced stage of diabetic retinopathy (a major cause of blindness).
Granted, he didn’t look at the rates of glaucoma or cataracts, two other problems common in diabetics. And I’m not sure whether this refers to a 25 percent reduction in the entire group, or if people with intensive control had a 25 percent lower chance of retinopathy (I think it’s the former). But nonetheless, I’ll take any evidence I can find that says that my personal control makes a difference. It’s this kind of research that keeps me going.
After all, living with diabetes is like being forced to train for a sport you never wanted to play. Forget marathons — controlling diabetes well takes paying attention every second of every day, every day of your life. I don’t know about you, but there are definitely days when I’d appreciate a medal.
AN UPDATE: Today, several articles came out — in Reuters and Endocrine Today in particular — with more details on the Wisconsin study. It clarifies that they’re not just talking about whether tight control makes a difference (it does); they’re saying that thanks to advances that help patients achieve better control, the date of your diagnosis is important, too. (In other words, if you spent half of your diabetic life measuring your blood sugar by peeing on a test strip, you’re worse off than someone with a CGM.) To quote from Reuters:
The researchers found that, overall, patients diagnosed in the 1970s were less likely to develop vision loss than those diagnosed before 1960 — even after accounting for age, high blood pressure and other factors that affect diabetes patients’ risk of impaired vision.
Or, to put it differently:
In a study of nearly 1,000 Wisconsin residents with type 1 diabetes, researchers found that visual impairment was less common among those diagnosed in the 1970s compared with those diagnosed in earlier decades.
The findings, the researchers say, suggest that better blood sugar control and improved treatment of diabetes-related eye disorders are preventing more cases of visual impairment than in years past.
In other words, we’re better equipped than we ever have been to achieve tight control — and thus to avoid complications. A note to insurance companies: consider this reason #5,259 that you should cover continuous glucometers.