It used to be a given that if you battled diabetes for long enough, you'd suffer the complications: kidney disease, blindness, heart ailments, and even amputations. But today, better care and proactive work against those threats have changed the future.
The kidneys were once and still are one of the prime targets of diabetes complications. Many if not most people suffering with diabetes eventually faced the need for dialysis and, eventually, the need for a transplant. But today, frequent lab tests that monitor kidney function and proactive treatment when any kind of early trouble is detected have cut the stats on kidney disease and diabetes.
The Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT), a nine-year study by the National Institutes of Health, showed that tight control of blood glucose levels reduced the chance of kidney disease in people with diabetes by 50 percent. Before the DCCT, it was thought that kidney disease was inevitable. Now, people understand they can help offset kidney disease and even avoid it, although it involves a lot of hard work to do so. (See Chapter 6 for more information on the DCCT.)
Ask your medical team how often they do labs to check your child's kidney functions. Insist on having the labs drawn once a year, even if your child is in the early years of diagnosis or is showing no signs of kidney trouble.
Since the mid-1990s, many doctors have begun treating patients with a type of medication called ACE Inhibitors the moment they begin to spill protein into urine (an early sign of kidney distress). ACE Inhibitors, used to treat hypertension, have proven to slow down and even avoid the onset of kidney disease by nearly 50 percent in people who showed first signs of progression to the disease. The use of ACE inhibitors is slowing the rates of kidney disease in people with diabetes even more.
Blindness was once thought to be an inevitable complication for many people battling diabetes. High levels of blood glucose attack the extremities first, and the capillaries in the eyes are often the first to be damaged. But again, the DCCT showed that tight control offsets this complication and often removed it completely.
Doctors also have improved methods of looking at eyes and keeping ahead of diabetes troubles; they are now able to use laser surgery to correct what would once have led to blindness. With a good ophthalmologist who specializes in diabetes checking your child annually, you should be able to ensure that this complication will never attack your child as well.
Amputations and Other Fears
Again, tight control and better tools mean that statistics for today's generation will be much different than in the past. With better pumps, insulin, and other drugs to help insulin work, even doctors are not sure what the future will hold, but they do know that the statistics will just keep getting better and better.
If your child hears horror stories of amputations and the like, tell her with all confidence that that was a different time. Today's technology has changed her future to one that is bright and filled with hope.
Parents should discuss complications in a private meeting with their child's medical team. Your team should give you confidence in the future and an understanding of their plan of attack to stay ahead of any diabetes-related complications so that they play no part in your child's future.