If you were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes over the age of 30, yet your blood sugar isn’t responding to typical treatment for type 2, it may actually be type 1.5 diabetes, or LADA.
What is LADA/type 1.5 diabetes?
Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults (LADA) is also called type 1.5 diabetes because it shares similarities with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. It’s similar to type 2 diabetes because it’s usually diagnosed in adulthood. However, it’s more similar to type 1 diabetes, which is also an autoimmune disease and requires insulin to manage blood sugar levels.
What makes LADA different is that the pancreas gradually stops producing insulin over time. With type 1, the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin from a young age. With type 2, the body eventually stops using the insulin produced in the pancreas, although it is still produced.
Many common diabetes symptoms may be present with LADA, including:
- Frequent infections
- Dry, itchy skin
- Numbness or tingling in the hands and feet
However, someone with LADA may also experience less common symptoms, like:
- Unintended weight loss
- Family history of autoimmune disease
- Difficulty controlling blood sugar using traditional type 2 treatments
- Healthy blood pressure level
- Normal cholesterol levels
Most people with type 2 will be able to manage their diabetes with a healthy diet, regular exercise, weight loss, and oral medication. This may work for those with LADA for a short while, which is why many adults with LADA are misdiagnosed with type 2. However, type 2 treatment methods will eventually stop working and indicate the patient really has type 1.5 diabetes.
All patients with type 1.5 will need insulin therapy at some point, usually within four years of diagnosis depending on how far the disease has progressed. If insulin therapy is delayed too long, it can lead to serious, long-term health complications. Without insulin, sugar in the blood will build up against arterial walls, damage blood vessels all over the body, and cause complications like limb amputation, kidney failure, blindness, and cardiovascular disease.
Type 1.5 is misdiagnosed as type 2 in 40 percent of adults, according to Diabetologia.
The only way to accurately test for type 1.5 diabetes is through lab tests for antibodies. If you are an adult with type 2 diabetes and have difficulty managing your blood sugar levels through normal type 2 treatment methods, talk to your doctor about further testing for type 1.5 diabetes.