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From Trinidad:

What is the life span of a person who is born with diabetes?


This question does not have an easy answer. Prior to the discovery and use of insulin, persons with diabetes were given a diet without carbohydrates and, at best, lived a few months. After insulin became available, this improved dramatically, although persons with diabetes still died earlier than their peers, usually from diabetes-related complications. Over time, better insulins, better ways to assess blood sugar, and better anticipatory management (including screening for complications such as retinopathy and nephropathy) became part of the treatment armamentarium.

With these things in place, a 1999 study using a Danish database found an improvement in life expectancy of about 15 years over the last 40 years. Several recent sources quote that "the life expectancy of a person with type 1 diabetes is about 15 years less than a healthy person." However, I think this is an underestimate, as we do not yet know the full impact of technologies such as insulin analogs, insulin pumps, and, most recently, glucose sensors. Plus, there is always the hope of an eventual "cure" (whatever shape that takes).

For now, I would focus on learning the basics of diabetes management, staying compliant with the regimen prescribed, and strive to keep the A1c under 8%. I think the future for persons with diabetes is the brightest it's ever been.


[Editor's comment: You may also wish to read the article Long-Term Course of Neonatal Diabetes for more information. Recent studies have also determined that children diagnosed as infants and having Kir6.2 mutations can take oral medication instead of insulin. See Switching from Insulin to Oral Sulfonylureas in Patients with Diabetes Due to Kir6.2 Mutations. An endocrinologist should be able to explain this and tell you where to have testing for this mutation carried out. BH]

Original posting 12 Aug 2007
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