To identify the clinical characteristics of early-onset NIDDM patients with severe diabetic complications.


The clinical cases of a large number of diabetic patients who visited a diabetes center within the period 1970–1990 were reviewed. Of a total of 16,842 diabetic patients, 1,065 (6.3%) had early-onset NIDDM (diabetes diagnosed before 30 years of age). These 1,065 patients were divided into two groups, those who developed proliferative retinopathy before the age of 35 (n = 135) and those who did not (n = 930). Development of proliferative retinopathy, nephropathy, renal failure, blindness, and atherosclerotic vascular disease were compared between the two groups.


The subgroup of 135 patients was characterized by poor glycemic control, often requiring insulin therapy and a higher familial prevalence of diabetes, and contained a greater proportion of women than the subgroup of 930 patients. Of the 135 patients, 99 (67%) developed proliferative retinopathy before the first visit. The 135 patients developed severe progressive complications in contrast to the 930 patients. A total of 81 patients (60%) developed diabetic nephropathy at a mean age of 31 years, 31 (23%) developed renal failure requiring dialysis at a mean age of 35 years, 32 (24%) became blind at a mean age of 32 years, and 14 (10%) developed atherosclerotic vascular disease at a mean age of 36 years.


Some Japanese early-onset NIDDM patients develop severe diabetic complications in their youth. Most of them had no symptoms nor regular treatment regarding diabetes until they were noticed to have developed severe diabetic complications. Although the relevant prevalence and the pathogenetic mechanism underlying the rapid onset of the complications remain to be determined, prolonged inadequate treatment of and familial predisposition to diabetes may be contributing factors. Careful diabetes care in the twenties, not only for IDDM but also for NIDDM patients, is warranted.

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