For patients with type 1 diabetes, keeping a close eye on blood sugar levels and managing their disease is a part of everyday life. A recent study may give these patients another reason to stay on top of their medical care.
The study looked at rates of stroke in patients with type 1 diabetes, taking note of diabetes-related complications that stemmed from damage to blood vessels.
The researchers found that type 1 diabetes patients with blood vessel-related kidney and eye damage were significantly more likely to have a stroke. As the severity of those two complications increased, the risk of stroke also grew.
The researchers suggested that early diagnosis and treatment of these complications could be an important part of avoiding stroke in patients with type 1 diabetes.
Per-Henrik Groop, MD, DMSc, FRCPE, of the Folkhalsan Research Center at Biomedicum Helsinki in Finland, led this study to learn more about the link between type 1 diabetes and stroke.
Type 1 diabetes is a disease that prevents the body from producing enough insulin to regulate blood sugar. People with type 1 diabetes usually monitor their blood sugar and use insulin supplements as treatment.
People with type 1 diabetes are five times more likely to experience a stroke than people without the disease, according to the authors of the study.
Strokes occur when blood cannot reach the brain, so brain cells die. It is caused by either a bleed in the brain, blood clots or broken blood vessels. Strokes can be fatal, and survivors often experience paralysis or lose certain abilities.
According to the researchers, not many in-depth studies about the link between type 1 diabetes and stroke have been conducted. This study examined that link, as well as the impact of other diabetes-related conditions, diabetic nephropathy and severe diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetic nephropathy is a condition in which the deterioration of blood vessels in the kidney leads to kidney failure. Severe diabetic retinopathy occurs when damage to the blood vessels in the retina, a part of the eye, leads to changes in vision or blindness.
This research used the Finnish Diabetic Nephropathy Study, or FDNS, which used data from all the people in Finland who had type 1 diabetes.
FDNS, which is ongoing, examines adult patients with diabetes and the complications that the disease causes. FDNS provided information about the patients' disease progression, heart health, kidney health, blood pressure and more. The severity of the patients' diabetic nephropathy and severe diabetic retinopathy, if applicable, were also recorded.
The researchers looked at data from 4,083 patients with type 1 diabetes taken between 1998 and 2010. The patients were an average of 37.4 years old and had been diagnosed with diabetes for about 21.6 years.
Additionally, the researchers used medical records, death certificates and Finland's National Hospital Discharge Register to see if the patients had experienced strokes.
They also noted if the patient had died from a stroke, which they defined as dying within 30 days after stroke symptoms began.
They found that 4 percent of the patients had a stroke between 1998 and 2010.
Typically, patients who had a stroke were older, had lived with diabetes for a longer duration and had more severe diabetic nephropathy and severe diabetic retinopathy.
The incidence of stroke was 406 per 100,000 person-years, or years in which the patient was monitored during the study. Stroke caused by blood vessel damage outside the brain was about twice as common as strokes caused by bleeding in the brain.
Additionally, as the patients' diabetic nephropathy became more severe, their risk of stroke also significantly increased. If a patient had both diabetic nephropathy and severe diabetic retinopathy, their risk of stroke increased 6.1-fold.
The researchers concluded that early diagnosis and treatment of these type 1 diabetes complications could lead to a decrease in stroke risk.
This study was published in the October issue of Diabetes Care.
The research was supported by various grants from research foundations. One of the researchers had served on a scientific advisory board for pharmaceutical companies and another received compensation for speaking. No other conflicts of interest were reported.