Twenty-five to forty-five years of diabetes with and without vascular complications

Diabetologia, Dec 1970

Summary Forty-eight patients with a mean duration of diabetes of 36 years were examined in an attempt to establish the clinical and social factors responsible for this unusually long survival. The exceptional course of these patients was demonstrated by a comparison with 48 matched patients 9 of whom had died within 10 years and 19 within 25 years of the onset of diabetes. — Of the 48 patients examined, 24 had received earlier the Quarter-Century Victory Medal for having passed 25 years of documented diabetes without vascular complications. The remaining 24 Long Term Diabetics were matched to the “Medal” patients as to sex, age and duration of diabetes. — A striking feature of all 48 patients and especially the “Medal” group was the low prevalence of large vessel disease. Microangiopathy was more frequent. Thus nonproliferative retinopathy was present in 5 of the “Medal” patients and in 11 of the Long Term Diabetics. Proliferative retinopathy was found in 10 Long-Term Diabetics, but in none of the Medal patients. Clinical evidence of nephropathy was found in 8 and neuropathy in 28 of the 48 patients. — A relatively high prevalence of parental longevity and a low frequency of obesity and of heavy cigarette smoking, were found in the “Medal” patients. Other factors apparently contributing to the favourable prognosis in the 48 patients examined included regular sports and other physical activity (93%) and maintenance of fair to good diabetic control (79%). Thirty-five percent of the patients had close relatives in the medical profession.

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Twenty-five to forty-five years of diabetes with and without vascular complications

Vol. Twenty-Five to Forty-Five Years of Diabetes with and without Vascular Complications* Diabetologia 0 1 0 Joslin Diabetes Foundation, Inc., Department of Medicine, H a r v a r d Medical School and the New England Deaconess Hospital Boston , Massachusetts , U.S.A 1 l~Iarios C. Balodimos, M.D., Elliott P. Joslin Research Laboratory, Harvard Medical School , 170, Pilgrim Road, Boston, Mass. , U.S.A Summary. Forty-eight patients with a mean duration of diabetes of 36 years were examined in an attempt to establish the clinical and social factors responsible for this unusually long survival. The exeeptional course of these patients was demonstrated by a comparison with 48 matched patients 9 of whom had died within 10 years and i9 within 25 years of the onset of diabetes. -- Of the 48 patients examined, 24 had received earlier the QuarterCentury Vietory Medal for having passed 25 years of documented diabetes without vascular complications. The remaining 24 Long Term Diabetics were matched to the "Medal" patients as to sex, age and duration of diabetes. - - A striking feature of all 48 patients and especially the "Medal" group was the low prevalence of large vessel disease. Microangiopathy was more frequent. Thus nonproliferative retinopathy was present in 5 of the "Medal" patients and in 11 of the Long Term Diabetics. Proliferative retinopathy was found in 10 Long-Term Diabetics, but in none of the Medal patients. Clinical evidence of nephropathy was found in 8 and neuropathy in 28 of the 48 patients. -- A relatively high prevalence of parental longevity and a low frequency of obesity and of heavy cigarette smoking, were found in the "Medal" patients. Other factors apparently eontributing to the favourable prognosis in the 4:8 patients examined included regular sports and other physical activity (93 %) and maintenance of fair to good diabetic control (79%). Thirty-five percent of the patients had close relatives in the medical profession. - * This study was supported in part by grants from the U.S. Public Health Service (AM 04146 and AM 05070), the Massaehusetts Lions Eye Research F u n d and the J o h n A. Hartford Foundation, Inc., New York N.Y. Dr. Chazan had an Earl Wilson Postdoctoral l:teseareh Fellowship of Fight for Sight, New York, N . Y . prolif6rative 6tait pr6sente ehez 5 patients ayant regu la m6daille et chez 11 des diab6tiques de longue dur6e. La r6tinopathie prolif6rative a 6t6 trouv6e ehez l0 diabgtiques de longue dur6e, mats ehez aueun des patients ayant regu la m6daille. Des manifestations cliniques de n6phropathie ont 6t6 trouv6cs chez 8 patients et la neuropathie ehez 28 des 48 patients. -- Parmi les patients ayant regu la m6daille, on a trouv6 une pr6dominance relativement 61ev6e de long6vit6 parentale et une faible fr6quenee d'ob6ses et de gros fumeurs de cigarettes. -- D'autres factears contribuant apparemment au prognostic favorable chez les 48 patients examin6s, 6taient la pratique r6guli6re de sports ou d'autres activit6s physiques (93%) ainsi que le maintien d'un ben 6quilibre diab6tique (79%). Trente-cinq pour cent des patients avaient de proehes parents duns la profession m6dieale. Zusammenfassung. 48 Patienten mit einer mittleren Diabetesdauer yon 36 J a h r e n wurden in der Absicht untersueht, die klinischen und sozialen Faktoren zu eruieren, die diese ungew6hnlieh lunge Uberlebenszeit bewirkten. Wie ungew6hnlich der Krankheitsverlauf bet diesen Patienten war, ergab eine Gegenfiberstellung mit 48 vergleichbaren Patienten, yon denen 9 innerhalb 10 J a h r e n und 19 innerhalb 25 J a h r e n nach Ausbrueh des Diabetes verstorben waren. -- Von den 48 untersuchten Patienten hatten 24 schon frfiher die Quarter Century Victory Medal daffir erhalten, dab bet ihnen naeh 25 J a h r e n dokumentierten Diabetes keine Gef~tBkomplikationen festzustellen waren. Die verbleibenden 24 Langzeitdiabetiker waren mit den ,,Medafllen"-Patienten nach Geschleeht, Alter und Diabetesdauer vergleichbar. Auff/illig bet allen 48 Patienten und vor allem bet der ,,Medaillen"-Gruppe war der niedrige Prozentsatz von Erkrankungen der grol~en Gef/~13e. Eine Mikroangidpathie bestand h/~ufiger. So lag eine nichtproliferative l%etinopathie bet 5 der ,,Medaillenpatienten" und 11 der Langzeitdiabetiker vor. Eine proliferative Retinopathie fand sich bet 10 Langzeitdiabetikern, jedoch bet keinem der ,,Medaillen"-Patienten. Klinische Hinweise auf eine Nephropathie ergaben sieh bet 8 und auf eine Neuropathie bet 28 der 48 Patienten. -- Bet den ,,Medaillen"-Patienten fanden sich relativ viele Angaben fiber Langlebigkeit der Eltern und nur selten eine Fettsueht oder hoher Zigarettenkonsum. Wetter schienen zu der gflnstigen Prognose bet den 48 untersuchten Patienten regelm~l~ige Sportausfibung und k6rperliehe Bewegung (93%) und eine befriedigende bis gute Stoffwechselkontrolle beizutragen (79 %). 35 % der Patienten h a t t e n nahe Verwandte in medizinischen Berufen. Key-words: Diabetes mellitus, long-term diabetes, Quarter Century Victory Medal for Diabetes, vascular complications in diabetes, microangiopathy of diabetes, diabetic retinopathy, diabetic nephropathy, parental longevity, obesity. "Who are the exceptional happy warriors ? Who is he, who is she, who have won out in the 25-year diabetic battle ?" Elliott P. Joslin Introduction The m e a n duration of life after onset of diabetes is 18.2 years. Vascular disease is the main cause of death and accounts for 77% of the deaths [ 3 ]. Patients who have had diabetes for more t h a n 25 years are not seen with great frequency in a diabetic outpatient clinic. Diabetics who survive t h a t long without a p p a r e n t vascular complications represent a unique group and have been singled out b y the creation of the QuarterCentury Victory Medal b y the late Dr. Elliott P. Josiin [ 10 ]. This clinical s t u d y was undertaken to ascertain the reasons why certain " H a p p y warriors" survive 25 and more years of diabetes with vascular system unscathed. Material and Methods Twenty-four patients (10 male and 14 female), awarded the Quarter Century Victory Medal were examined b y one of us (BIC), either as t h e y presented at the Joslin Clinic for follow-up examination or b y special invitation. These patients will be referred to as the "Medal group". Twenty-four other diabetic patients with various vascular complications, primarily retinopathy, under t r e a t m e n t in the Hospital Teaching U n i t of the New England Deaconess Hospital, were examined b y the same physician (BIC) and the findings recorded on a standardized d a t a sheet. This latter group with complications, referred to as the Long-Term Diabetes group (LTD) was matched b y age, sex, age at onset and duration of diabetes with the Medal group. A detailed past history in reference to diabetes, including frequency of ketoacidosis and insulin reactions, was obtained on all patients. I n addition, the family history including parental longevity, the social life and habits of the subjects including smoking and physical exercise, were recorded. Cigarette smoking habits were expressed as the n u m b e r of packs of cigarettes smoked daily, times the n u m b e r of years during which the subject smoked (pack-years). Physical exercise during the period of diabetes was evaluated according to the n u m b e r of hours spent weekly in regular physical activity and sports. Each patient's weight was expressed as a percentage of the ideal weight [ 7 ]. The physical examination included a search for cataracts, arcus cornealis, and D u p u y t r e n contractures. The eyes were examined b y ophthalmoscopy, retinal p h o t o g r a p h y and in 26, b y retinal fluorescein angiog r a p h y with the purpose of demonstrating or excluding lesions of diabetic retinopathy. All patients underwent eonjunctival biomicroscopy, using a modification of the method of Ditzel and St. Clair [ 1 ] with p h o t o g r a p h y of microcirculatory changes in both temporal and nasal aspects of both bulbar conjunctivae. Additional investigations included blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and serum cholesterol estimations, electrocardiograms and urinalyses. As a measure of control of diabetes we used the blood glucose level over the years, with the following criteria : 1. Good control." At least 70% of blood glucose values were no higher t h a n 150 mg fasting, 200 mg at one hour, 170 mg at two hours and 150 mg/100 ml at 3 or more hours after food. 2. Fair control: 5 0 - - 6 9 % of the blood glucose values were no higher t h a n the above. 3. Poor control: F i f t y percent or more of the blood glucose values were higher t h a n the above. I n order to demonstrate the unusual and exceptional course of these 48 patients in contrast to the prognosis in diabetics at large, a group of "control" patients undergoing similar supervision and t r e a t m e n t to t h a t of the Medal patients was m a d e up as follows: For every "Medal p a t i e n t " two names were chosen at r a n d o m from the Joslin Clinic records, selecting patients of the same sex, year of birth and year at onset of diabetes. The medical records of the Control Group were surveyed for progress of the diabetes, diabetic complications, intercurrcnt disease and outcome. Results Mortality A comparison of the "Medal" patients in this study with the fate of the 48 Control patients showed, that, of the 20 male Control patients six had died within 10 years of the onset of diabetes. Of these, three died of diabetic coma in 1915, 1925 and 1928 respectively, one of perforated gastric ulcer, one of septicaemia and one of suicide. Another three had died within 25 years (two of myocardial infarction and one of alcoholic cirrhosis). Only seven were known to be alive at the time of study. Of the 28 female Control patients three had died within 10 years of onset of diabetes (two of diabetic coma in 1929 and 1930 respectively, and one of tuberculous peritonitis). Another seven had died within 25 years of onset of diabetes (three of renal failure and one each from p u l m o n a r y tuberculosis, myocardial infarction, ulcerative colitis and panereatitis). Thus 19 of the 48 Controls (40%) had died within 25 years of the onset of diabetes (Fig. 1). Clinical factors Table 1 shows the age, the age at onset and the duration of diabetes in the two groups of patients examined. There was no significant difference between the two groups. Seven of the male and 10 of the female patients had lived at least 10 years after the award of the medal (35 or more years of diabetes). I n two of the male Medal, and two of the male LTD patients, diabetes had become manifest before 1923 (i.e., before insulin became generally available). FATE OF CONTROLS 48 patients (all in the LTD group) had severe trophic lesions of the feet; two had required toe amputation. Six patients (four of them LTD) had both peripheral vascular disease and an abnormal electrocardiogram. Evidence of past cerebrovascular disease was elicited in four patients (three of them LTD). Eye disease Five Medal patients had nonproliferative retinopathy, i.e. occasional mieroaneurysms (four patients) or a single exudate (one patient). None of the 24 Medal patients showed proliferative retinopathy. B y contrast 11 of the 24 LTD patients had non-proliferative and ten showed proliferative retinopathy (Table 2). I n most Medal patients the eyes were remarkably free of diabetic retinopathy (Fig. 2). Thirteen of the 48 patients had arcus cornealis and eight had cataracts. Conjunctival microaneurysms were found in 15 patients. There were no obvious differences in the frequency between the groups. 5O 4O ~_ 2o I0 9 Large vessel disease A strfldng feature of the 48 patients when considered as a whole was the low prevalence of large vessel disease. Thus only one patient (LTD female) had angina pectoris and only two patients (one LTD male and one L T D female) had electrocardiographic evidence of an old myocardial infarction. Minor abnormalities in the electrocardiogram, particularly nonspecific ST-T wave changes, were frequent (11 patients) and evenly distributed throughout both Medal and LTD groups. One Medal and three LTD patients had a diastolic blood pressure of 100 mm t t g or higher. Although pedal pulses were absent in 17 patients, only four of the Nephropathy and Neuropathy Persistent proteinuria or azotaemia was found in only eight patients, five of them in the Medal group (Table 2). Signs of neuropathy (absent knee, ankle or abdominal reflexes, loss of sweating or of vibration sense in the lower extremities, posturM hypotension, paresthesias or hyperesthesia) were found in 28 of the 48 patients (Table 2). Permanent sexual impotence was found in eight men. I t was significantly more common in the LTD group than in the Medal patients (t0 < 0.05). All of the seven LTD patients with impotence had signs of neuropathy. One of these had failure of ejaculation and another postural hypotension (140/80 supine and 80/55 erect). The sole Medal patient with impotence had no abnormal neurological signs; he was, however, hypertensive and was treated with a ganglion-blocking agent which m a y have been a factor in the impotence. Additional physical findings An unusually marked plethoric facies was noted in 34 of the 48 patients, 27 of whom showed small venular congestion on conjunetival biomicroscopy, ttepatomegaly was present in 25 patients, and was twice as common in the male and female LTD patients as in the Medal patients. Only eight patients had Dupuytren contractures. Contributory factors (Table 3). I n 24 of the 48 patients both parents had lived for more than 70 years. Parental longevity was significantly more common in the Medal patients than in the LTD group (p < 0.01). Ten Medal and seven LTD patients had close relatives in the medical profession (35%). Twenty-seven of the 48 patients had been more than 10% overweight at some time during their diabetic life, although only 10 were overweight at the time of the present examination. Obesity was significantly more prevalent (P < 0.05) in the female LTD than in female Medal patients. Fourteen patients were heavy cigarette smokers (more t h a n 20 pack-years). Thirty-three of 35 patients on whom this information was available had taken regular physical exercise, mainly walking, throughout their diabetic years. Twenty (nine LTD) had in addition engaged in regular sports activities since school days. Severity and control of diabetes Diabetic ketoacidosis had been present at least once in eight of the 24 Medal and in 11 of the 24 LTD patients. Only two patients in each group (one male and one female) had never had an insulin reaction. Indeed, most patients had frequent insulin reactions. All patients were treated with insulin. Mixed injections (regular plus long-acting insulin) were required in the treatment of 32 patients, and split doses (morning and evening) were required in 12 patients. The total daily insulin requirement averaged 40 units. The differences between the groups were not significant. Twelve of the 16 Medal and seven of the 11 LTD patients on whom reliable information was available had maintained good or fair control of diabetes. Intercurrent diseases Among the males none had had cancer, while four of the 28 females (one Medal) had undergone radical masteetomy. Another five females had had choleeystitis (one Medal). I n addition, one male Medal patient had had active pulmonary tuberculosis and another was under treatment for manic-depressive psychosis. Discussion It is evident that both the Medal and LTD patients constitute an exceptional group. The fact, that more than one-third of a Control group of randomly selected diabetic patients had died before reaching their 25th diabetic year, serves to stress the uniqueness of the patients examined. Various factors are thought to be associated with a good prognosis for the diabetic (Table 4). Thus Root and Barclay, [ 9 ] reporting on 96 patients who had survived 35 to 46 years of diabetes, stressed the importance of early diagnosis, energetic dietary therapy, and excellent eo6peration on the part of the patient. Other factors stressed b y these authors, and confirmed by Rogers and Holcomb [ 8 ] were a well-ordered life with careful diabetic control and a favourable heredity, which included relative freedom from serious intercurrent disease. The latter authors added a relatively young age of onset of diabetes and absence of obesity as additional favourable prognostic factors. The study of these exceptional patients contributed some additionM interesting findings worth emphasizing. None of the Medal patients had proliferative retinopathy and few had even mild degrees of nonproliferative retinopathy five to 18 years after the award of the medal. Severe retinal vascular disease is thus unlikely to appear de novo after 25 years of uncomplicated diabetes, regardless of the patient's age. I n general it m a y be stated that the prognosis for such patients is excellent for the next 10 years. Parental longevity was shown in this and the earlier study [ 10 ] to be inversely related to the appearance of severe vascular complications. H e a v y cigarette smoking, which m a y predispose to coronary artery disease and to Buerger's disease, was more common in the LTD group. I t is worth noting t h a t most of the patients in this study had taken regular exercise throughout their diabetic years and had been taught to regard this as part of their treatment. 1. Intelligence and eo6peration 2. Normal mental status 3. Strict adherence to diet 4. Absence of obesity 5. Favourable heredity as to longevity 6. Absence of serious intereurrent diseases Factors relating to the diabetic process and therapy A . Diabetes 1. Insulin sensitivity 2. Early age at onset of diabetes 3. Blood glucose normal once each day B. Therapy 1. Strict control of hyperglycaemia 2. Sensible use of hypoglycaemic reactions 3. Avoidance of excessive insulin dosage Strict control of hyperglycaemia has been advocated especially in the prevention of retinopathy [ 2, 6 ]. A satisfactory blood glucose level was achieved over the years in the majority of this unique patient group. Lawrence [4] suggested using mild hypoglycaemic reactions to ensure adequate control. The achievement of normoglycaemia for only a few hours in each day m a y protect the retinal capillaries from diabetic involvement [ 5 ]. The high prevalence of frequent insulin reactions in both Medal and LTD patients implies a continued attempt at control of hyperglycaemia. I n conclusion then, it is hoped t h a t this study contributed to the understanding of clinical factors related to the postponement of diabetic vascular disease, since the ultimate aetiology of diabetic angiop a t h y remains elusive. Acknowledgments. The technical and secretarial assistance of Miss Helen E. Johnson is gTatefully acknowledged. 1. Ditzel , J. , St . Clair, R.E. : Clinical method of photographing the smaller blood vessels and the circulating blood in the bulbar conjunetiva of human subjects . Circulation 10 , 277 -- 281 ( 1954 ). 2. Dunlop , D.M.: Are diabetic degenerative complications preventable . Brit. reed. J. 1954 II , 383 -- 385 . 3. Joslin , E.P. , Root , H.F. , White , P. , Marble , A. : Treatment of Diabetes ~]lellitus 10th ed., pp. 28 , 236 , 408 . Philadelphia: Lea and Febiger 1959 . 4. Lawrence , R.D.: Treatment of 90 severe diabetics with soluble insulin for 20--40 years. Effect of diabetic control on complications . Brit. reed. J. 1963 II , 1624 -- 1625 . 5. Lukens , F.D.W. , Franklin , S.N. : Long-term diabetes without vascular disease . Med. Clin. N. Amer. 5{) , 1385 -- 1391 ( 1966 ). 6.1V~atthews, J. D. : Vascular disease in diabetes mellitus . Lancet 1954 II, 573 -- 575 . 7. New Weight Standards for Men and Women . Statist. Bull. 1VIetrop. Life Insur. Co . 4 { } , 3 ( 1959 ). 8. Rogers , W. R. , I-Iolcomb , B. : Lengthy diabetes : Causes and effects . Arch. intern, l~Ied. 105 , 746 -- 751 ( 1960 ). 9. Root , I-I.F. , Barclay , P. : Diabetes of thirty-five years' duration . J. Amer. reed. Ass . 161 , 801 -- 806 ( 1956 ). 10. Ryan , J.R. , Balodimos , M.C. , Chazan , B.I. , Root , H.F. , Marble , A. , White , P. , Joslin , A.P. : Quarter Century Victory Medal for Diabetes . Metabolism 19 , 493 - 501 ( 1970 ).


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B. I. Chazan, M. C. Balodimos, J. R. Ryan, A. Marble. Twenty-five to forty-five years of diabetes with and without vascular complications, Diabetologia, 1970, 565-569, DOI: 10.1007/BF00418222