A University of Iowa researcher says a huge study’s proven there are big benefits to carefully monitoring blood-sugar in diabetics. While they’ve known for a long time that highs and lows in the blood glucose cause organ damage, blindness, and other medical complications, Doctor William Sivitz says the study is wide and deep…including many patients for a long time.
He says there were over 14-hundred research volunteers recruited between 1983 and 1987, and more than 80-percent of those are still being followed today, at 28 different medical centers in the U.S. and Canada. Until 1993 they were randomly assigned to try and control their glucose levels in conventional ways, or very intensively.
The researchers knew that people with Type One Diabetes were at great risk of typical complications including damage to eyes, kidneys, nervous system and the cardiovascular system. Nobody knew then for sure whether that was simply because they had diabetes, or because they didn’t have very good control of those glucose levels. Their subjects had to be careful to prevent spikes in blood sugar but not let it get too low, which also poses a danger.
Before long, Dr. Sivitz says it became clear there was a benefit to aggressively managing the disease. He say the rate of eye, nerve and other complications was three times less in the group that intensively monitored and controlled their blood sugar, and no bad side-effects from keeping it lower than had been done in the past. Sivitz says that ended a lot of arguments about just how important it was to aggressively manage diabetes.
The data also spurred development of new treatments for patients. Industry researchers were encouraged to develop better ways to control blood sugar, safer ways and new forms of insulin as well as better ways of monitoring blood sugar. He says the improvement continues to this day. Intensive therapy proved so valuable, all the patients in the study after 1993 were told to use that technique, so they could best avoid the serious health complications of longterm diabetes.
In addition to the side-effects they knew about before, the doctor says life-threatening complications like heart disease and strokes have now been linked to the disease also, so its control is more important.