My Diabetes Now vs My Early Years

By Richard157 Latest Reply 2012-04-15 02:16:51 -0500
Started 2012-04-09 21:30:20 -0500

From the year of my diagnosis in 1945, until the mid 1990s, I did not need any medications, and there were no diabetes related complications. That was approximately 50 years with no problems. How was that possible? Beef and pork insulins did very well for me, although common sense suggests my blood sugar must have been very high most of the time. The urine tests every morning showed very high blood sugar on most days. There was only one urine test each day until Tes-tape for easier urine testing was introduced a few decades after my diagnosis. There was no basal and bolus control, and no involvement of carbs in my daily routine. My meals consisted of hundreds of carbs, and there was no information about my needing to limit my intake of any foods, except those containing sugar. My doctors had very little advice for me. Despite all these factors, there were no diabetes problems. There may have been DKA on many occasions, but I did not know about DKA until the present century. So how did I avoid complications for such a long time? I think it may have had something to do with the beef and pork insulins I used for all those years. Several online friends agree that the insulin we were using did seem to offer us protection from the complications to our eyes, kidneys and our nervous systems.

When I started using synthetic insulins in the mid 1990s, things were so different. I was aware of the involvement of carbs at that time, so my eating habits had changed. My carb intake was greatly reduced, and foods with fast acting carbs were restricted to smaller portions. I counted carbs and determined appropriate insulin:carb ratios. That, along with my basal and bolus insulins, resulted in my having A1c's below 6.0 soon after the start of the new century. My A1c's before the mid 1990s were much much higher.

In the late 1990s I needed medications for cholesterol, blood pressure, and water retention. I was also diagnosed with carpal tunnel and ulnar nerve problems. Frozen shoulders, cataracts, and some mild spots of neuropathy occurred during that time. Several years later I was diagnosed with neuropathy in my feet. All of these things occurred after I stopped the animal insulins, and started using the synthetic insulins that are still used at the present time. How can this be? We know so much more about diabetes now, and we have devices, insulins, and medications that can improve our control so much. Indeed, my control did improve very much, but those complications and the need for medications did occur. Don't you think it would have made more sense for me to have complications in my early years, when I had so much high blood sugar, and almost none of the present day knowledge?

There are doctors who have told their diabetes patients that if they can avoid complications during their first 20 years with diabetes, then they are not likely to have complications later on. My complications began about 50 years after my diagnosis, so am I an exception to the rule? I really cannot fully agree with that 20 years rule.

I am certainly not unique. There are a few thousand type 1 diabetics in the US who have lived with diabetes for at least 50 years, and without any serious complications. Some of them have been diabetics for 10 or more years longer than me, and they do not have any serious problems that are diabetes related.

There is a study taking place at the Joslin Diabetes Center, in Boston. It began in 2005, and is ongoing at the present time. I participated in the study in 2009. The purpose of the study is to determine the factors that have enabled so many long term type 1 diabetics to live so long, and be so healthy. Maybe the reason so many of us had no complications during our early years will be revealed.

My having some mild complications in the 1990s, and not earlier, is still a mystery to me. Now, in the year 2012, I have no symptoms of any complications that really bother me. Some mild arthritis, some dizziness in the mornings, and occasional symptoms of neuropathy are all that are present now. I am so fortunate to be doing so well, but I will always be curious about how it has all evolved.


This is my most recent blog from my blogsite:

8 replies

jigsaw 2012-04-10 09:31:04 -0500 Report

I appreciate the your positive attitude ! I would imagine that has a great deal to do with your success for so long. I'm sure many find your example to be encouraging, as I have.

Nick1962 2012-04-10 08:56:48 -0500 Report

Thanks for the history lesson Richard, and well done! Just goes to show that science is making some progress with this condition, and we have to learn to adapt. Also that sometimes while an improvement may mean more readily available insulin, it may not be a better fit. Kind of like the old days of controling malaria carrying pests with DDT. Sure we cut malaria down, but now we have whole populations with DDT posoning.
As far as complications, is it possible that some are more related to age than diabetes? I know diabetics are at a higher risk for the complications you listed, but I know many non diabetics with them also.

Richard157 2012-04-10 12:01:09 -0500 Report

Yes, Nick, age certainly has a lot to do with it. In my early years most type 1 diabetics died an early death. I was told by two doctors that I would not live beyond my 40s. How I escaped complications when so many others did not is what makes me so curious. There has to be an explanation. Even now, at age 72, I am very healthy.

annesmith 2012-04-15 02:16:51 -0500 Report

I think it is wonderful you have escaped so many complications. I know an elderly man from my church—he had type 1 untreated for a good duration of his childhood, and he had gone into several seizures as a child and also he had seen several angels . When he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 21 and put on insulin, he did real well. He too escaped almost all the complications—he's got really good eyes , walks really good. He started playing tennis again when he was in his 50s, and he also put himself on a really strict diet of greens. Combining the really hard tennis playing daily along with the diet , he was actually able to reduce his insulin down to virtually none—he stayed that way from his 50s all the way to his 60s—amazing. When he got in his mid 60s, around age 67, he had to increase his insulin again, but it was not a huge increase-last time I talked with him about 2 years ago he was still going strong at age 88. He says his doctors were very amazed at what he did. He says his case is considered to be rare, as in, how he reduced his insulin down to almost none for 10 years. Many people do not fully believe him. He said that he is positive many other people could do this, and it would also work with them..he said it's just a matter of hard discipline on the exercise, combined with eating healthy food. I wish you continued success!!!!—sincerely, ANNE

Nick1962 2012-04-10 12:06:59 -0500 Report

I'm pretty sure you were selected to be an example for the rest of us. :)

Richard157 2012-04-10 12:12:24 -0500 Report

There is a study being done on long term type 1 diabetics in Boston. All participants have been type 1 for at least 50 years. I participated in 2009. The purpose of the study is to determine what makes us different.

Richard157 2012-04-10 20:52:24 -0500 Report

The study began in 2005, and 700+ have participated. The plan is to conclude the study when there are 1000 participants. The JDRF and the NIH are funding the study.