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From Ontario, Canada:

I was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes when I was 21. I am now 25. I have looked everywhere to find an answer to my question: If I keep my blood sugars around 5-7 mmol/l [90-126 mg/dl], what is my average life expectancy? Everyone seems to want to avoid answering this question, including my doctor. I know that it is different for everyone, but I need to know how many years I can live with this control before expecting complications such as kidney failure, etc. Please be as blunt and direct as possible, I am getting very tired of being protected, and not being told the cold facts.


Whether any of us want to know exactly when and how we will die is a deep philosophical question but you are, of course, perfectly entitled to ask for an honest answer to the often asked 'does diabetes shorten life expectancy?'

Well, on a statistical basis it does. There are two problems with this approach, however. First, it takes no account of the individual (see below) and second, it is necessarily an argument based on history; i.e., it is highly unlikely to be the same when looked at from the perspective of 2030.

You may feel that I am dodging the issue but I am not. You have had your diabetes for four years. I assume from the tenor of your question that you have been careful about your blood glucose control and we know from the DCCT that this will reduce your risk of microvascular complications by around 60-70%. Of course, you face other risks such as heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke, but again, these can be reduced by 'healthy living' - reduced fat intake, regular exercise and non-smoking. Realistically, your diabetes may shorten your life expectancy a little but a famous paediatric surgeon from my hospital is still well at over 80 years of age and he's been on insulin since the 1920s!

I wish you a long healthy and happy life.


Original posting 21 Nov 1998
Posted to Complications


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Last Updated: Tuesday April 06, 2010 15:09:02
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