Dr Araz Rawshani

100 years of progress for people with diabetes


At the beginning of the 20th century, type 1 diabetes was a deadly disease. There were no survivors. In 1922, insulin was used for the first time to treat people with type 1 diabetes. In the 1950s, 1 in 5 people died within 20 years after being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. At that time, almost all developed diabetic retinopathy and diabetic nephropathy. The possibilities for treating and monitoring the disease were extremely limited. Insulin produced from cattle was used and the only possibility to measure blood sugar was through unsafe urine measured. Many Swedes with type 1 diabetes have lived for a time when insulin dosing was Potentially life-threatening every time. A great deal has happened over the years and this is thanks to medical research and technological progress.

In 1983, the groundbreaking study started Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT), which included 1441 people with type 1 diabetes. This historical study show that care control of blood sugar reduced retinopathy, nephropathy and neuropathy by 50% to 75%. The researchers found that careful blood sugar control result in a halved risk of heart disease and stroke. The DCCT study is one of the most important studies ever carried out in people with type 1 diabetes. The DCCT study, like the Thousands of other studies, has been contributing enormously to our knowledge of type 1 diabetes. The success of pharmaceutical technology, technical equipment and knowledge of the importance of different risk factors have been key to this improvement.

Today, people with type 1 diabetes live long lives and the quality of life is very high than to the past decades. The fact is that technical and medical successes have accelerated, so that new types of insulin and technical aids (e.g. continuous glucose meters, insulin pumps) are increasing, which is improving the quality of life and prognosis.

Read more: Prognosis and life expectancy in type 1 diabetes.

Today we also know much more about type 2 diabetes. We know that heredity, obesity and physical inactivity are important risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Research has shown that type 2 diabetes can be delayed, prevented and even cured. Basic and intensive lifestyle changes are crucial for the prognosis. However, it should be mentioned that for those who have type 2 diabetes, even modest weight loss and regular exercise can have very beneficial effects. Of all those who have diabetes today, 90% have type 2 diabetes, which is explained by the avalanche increase in overweight and obesity in the population.

In conclusion, the prognosis and quality of life in type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes has improved enormously over the years. However, we can certainly expect further improvements in the coming years.

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