The 30-year natural history of type 1 diabetes complications: the Pittsburgh Epidemiology of Diabetes Complications Study experience

Diabetes. 2006 May;55(5):1463-9. doi: 10.2337/db05-1423.


Declining incidences in Europe of overt nephropathy, proliferative retinopathy, and mortality in type 1 diabetes have recently been reported. However, comparable data for the U.S. and trend data for neuropathy and macrovascular complications are lacking. These issues are addressed using the prospective observational Pittsburgh Epidemiology of Childhood-Onset Diabetes Complications Study. Participants were stratified into five cohorts by diagnosis year: 1950-1959, 1960-1964, 1965-1969, 1970-1974, and 1975-1980. Mortality, renal failure, and coronary artery disease (CAD) status were determined on the complete cohort (n = 906) at 20, 25, and 30 years. Overt nephropathy, proliferative retinopathy, and neuropathy were assessed at 20 and 25 years on the subset of participants with a clinical examination. There was a decreasing trend by diagnosis year for mortality, renal failure, and neuropathy across all time intervals (P < 0.05), with the 1950-1959 cohort having a fivefold higher mortality at 25 years than the 1970s' cohorts. Proliferative retinopathy and overt nephropathy showed nonsignificant declines at 20 years (P < 0.16 and P < 0.13, respectively) and no change at 25 years. CAD event rates, which were lower than the other complications, also showed no trend. Although some type 1 diabetes complications (mortality, renal failure, and neuropathy) are declining, others (CAD, overt nephropathy, and proliferative retinopathy) show less favorable changes by 30 years.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Age of Onset
  • Cause of Death
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / complications*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / mortality
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / physiopathology*
  • Diabetic Angiopathies / epidemiology
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / epidemiology
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pennsylvania
  • Time Factors