Abnormalities of rheologic and hemostatic properties of blood are present in uncontrolled diabetics and play a role in the development of structural micro- and macroangiopathies.

Red blood cell deformability is decreased in diabetics and shows negative correlation with fast hemoglobin and actual blood glucose levels. In uncontrolled insulin-dependent diabetics, normalization of plasma glucose by an insulin infusion improves red cell deformability in 2 h. Insulin infusion (0.2 U/kg/h) [the initial hyperglycemia being maintained (hyperglycemic clamp)] also improves red cell deformability. Deformability of normal erythrocytes is reduced by incubation in plasma from uncontrolled diabetics but is normal in plasma from diabetics controlled by a 24-h insulin infusion or in diabetic plasma with insulin added in vitro. Therefore, insulin appears to have a direct effect on erythrocyte deformability.

Platelet aggregation measured in whole blood is raised in uncontrolled diabetics. Aggregation of normal platelets rises in the presence of “diabetic” red cells but not in the presence of red cells from the same patients controlled by 24-h treatment with insulin. The effect of insulin on platelet aggregation, therefore, seems to be at least partly mediated by erythrocytes.

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