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Diabetes Care. 2004 Apr;27(4):955-62.

Early glycemic control, age at onset, and development of microvascular complications in childhood-onset type 1 diabetes: a population-based study in northern Sweden.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Umeå University Hospital, Umeå, Sweden.



The aim of this work was to study the impact of glycemic control (HbA(1c)) early in disease and age at onset on the occurrence of incipient diabetic nephropathy (MA) and background retinopathy (RP) in childhood-onset type 1 diabetes.


All children, diagnosed at 0-14 years in a geographically defined area in northern Sweden between 1981 and 1992, were identified using the Swedish Childhood Diabetes Registry. From 1981, a nationwide childhood diabetes care program was implemented recommending intensified insulin treatment. HbA(1c) and urinary albumin excretion were analyzed, and fundus photography was performed regularly. Retrospective data on all 94 patients were retrieved from medical records and laboratory reports.


During the follow-up period, with a mean duration of 12 +/- 4 years (range 5-19), 17 patients (18%) developed MA, 45 patients (48%) developed RP, and 52% had either or both complications. A Cox proportional hazard regression, modeling duration to occurrence of MA or RP, showed that glycemic control (reflected by mean HbA(1c)) during the follow-up was significantly associated with both MA and RP when adjusted for sex, birth weight, age at onset, and tobacco use as potential confounders. Mean HbA(1c) during the first 5 years of diabetes was a near-significant determinant for development of MA (hazard ratio 1.41, P = 0.083) and a significant determinant of RP (1.32, P = 0.036). The age at onset of diabetes significantly influenced the risk of developing RP (1.11, P = 0.021). Thus, in a Kaplan-Meier analysis, onset of diabetes before the age of 5 years, compared with the age-groups 5-11 and >11 years, showed a longer time to occurrence of RP (P = 0.015), but no clear tendency was seen for MA, perhaps due to lower statistical power.


Despite modern insulin treatment, >50% of patients with childhood-onset type 1 diabetes developed detectable diabetes complications after approximately 12 years of diabetes. Inadequate glycemic control, also during the first 5 years of diabetes, seems to accelerate time to occurrence, whereas a young age at onset of diabetes seems to prolong the time to development of microvascular complications.

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