People diagnosed with type 2 diabetes as adolescents or young adults are twice as likely to die early than people with type 1 diabetes, a new retrospective 20-year follow-up study reveals.
Many diabetes experts find the information surprising. Type 1 diabetes has long been considered a more severe form of the disease primarily because patients require insulin for the rest of their lives and are at risk of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, which if severe can be deadly.
However, people with type 2 diabetes, especially those who are diagnosed at a young age, are at greater risk for complications and co-morbidities than people diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Plus, their disease appears to be more aggressive than in those diagnosed with type 2 diabetes as adults. Cardiovascular causes accounted for half of the deaths among those with type 2 diabetes, compared to less than a third of those with type 1.
“The present findings give a disquieting perspective on the long-term mortality risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus and a sobering glimpse of the future for patients,” the researchers said.
Many people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes rely on insulin to regulate their blood sugar levels. However, those with type 2 diabetes often require other or additional medications. Many of those drugs can have serious side effects that in some cases can be life threatening.
For example, in 2010, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) severely restricted the use of Avandia after it was tied to deadly heart attacks. A year later, the agency issued a warning that studies had linked Actos to bladder cancer. New studies have also indicated that the drugs Byetta and Januvia have been associated with acute pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer.