OBJECTIVE

To evaluate HbA1c followed from diagnosis, as a predictor of severe microvascular complications (i.e., proliferative diabetic retinopathy [PDR] and nephropathy [macroalbuminuria]).

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS

In a population-based observational study, 447 patients diagnosed with type 1 diabetes before 35 years of age from 1983 to 1987 in southeast Sweden were followed from diagnosis until 2019. Long-term weighted mean HbA1c (wHbA1c) was calculated by integrating the area under all HbA1c values. Complications were analyzed in relation to wHbA1c categorized into five levels.

RESULTS

After 32 years, 9% had no retinopathy, 64% non-PDR, and 27% PDR, and 83% had no microalbuminuria, 9% microalbuminuria, and 8% macroalbuminuria. Patients with near-normal wHbA1c did not develop PDR or macroalbuminuria. The lowest wHbA1c values associated with development of PDR and nephropathy (macroalbuminuria) were 7.3% (56 mmol/mol) and 8.1% (65 mmol/mol), respectively. The prevalence of PDR and macroalbuminuria increased with increasing wHbA1c, being 74% and 44% in the highest category, wHbA1c >9.5% (>80 mmol/mol). In comparison with the follow-up done after 20–24 years’ duration, the prevalence of PDR had increased from 14 to 27% and macroalbuminuria from 4 to 8%, and both appeared at lower wHbA1c values.

CONCLUSIONS

wHbA1c followed from diagnosis is a very strong biomarker for PDR and nephropathy, the prevalence of both still increasing 32 years after diagnosis. To avoid PDR and macroalbuminuria in patients with type 1 diabetes, an HbA1c <7.0% (53 mmol/mol) and as normal as possible should be recommended when achievable without severe hypoglycemia and with good quality of life.

This article contains supplementary material online at https://doi.org/10.2337/figshare.20427942.

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