Controlling blood glucose early in the course of type 1 diabetes yields huge dividends, preserving kidney function for decades. The new finding from a study funded by the National Institutes of Health was published online in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Compared to conventional therapy, near-normal control of blood glucose beginning soon after diagnosis of type 1 diabetes and continuing an average six-and-a-half years reduced by half the long-term risk of developing kidney disease, according to the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial and Epidemiology of Diabetes Interventions and Complications Research Group. The risk of kidney failure was also halved, but the difference was not statistically significant, perhaps due to the relatively small total number of patients who reached that stage of the disease.
Participants entered the DCCT on average six years after onset of diabetes when complications of diabetes were absent or very mild. Half aimed for near-normal glucose control and the others received what was then standard glucose control.
After an average 22-year follow-up, 24 in the intensive group developed significantly reduced kidney function and 8 progressed to kidney failure requiring dialysis or transplantation. On conventional therapy, 46 developed kidney disease, with kidney failure in 16. The landmark DCCT demonstrated that intensive control reduced early signs of eye, kidney and nerve damage and is the basis for current guidelines for diabetes therapy. However, the initial kidney findings were based on reductions in urine protein, a sign of kidney damage but not a measure of kidney function. Preventing a loss of kidney function and reducing kidney failure had not been proven.
Since the DCCT ended in 1993, all participants have tried to maintain excellent diabetes control and have achieved similar glucose levels. The new finding emphasises the importance of good control of type 1 diabetes soon after diagnosis.