In fact, the study shows that the positive effects of tight blood glucose control can be seen more than a decade later. At the end of the study period, patients who had controlled their blood sugar tightly ever since the start of the study were 51 percent less likely to have nerve problems than patients who started the study at the same time but did not have the initial 5 year period of intensive blood sugar control.
The study, published in the February issue of the journal Diabetes Care, involved 1,441 people with Type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes. Although patients with the more common Type 2 form of diabetes were not involved, the results may have implications for the 18 million Americans with Type 2 diabetes.
Two-thirds of all people with diabetes have some degree of nerve problems, or neuropathy, related to their diabetes. The most common sign is numbness or pain in the feet and legs, which can progress over time to cause disability. Neuropathy plays a major role in 80,000 foot and leg amputations in American diabetics each year.
"This is an exciting finding that adds credence to the idea of metabolic memory, or the concept that there can be a durable effect from early and sustained efforts to keep blood sugar low," says senior author Eva Feldman, M.D., Ph.D., the DeJong Professor of Neurology at the University of Michigan Medical School and director of the U-M Neuropathy Center. "It suggests that good glucose control clearly protects patients over the long term."
The new study marks the first time that tight blood sugar control has been shown to have a long-term effect on the chance that a person with diabetes will develop neuropathy. Similar findings have been made for two
Contact: Kara Gavin
University of Michigan Health System