If you're active in online diabetes forums and social media, you've probably come across prominent community members with a third type of diabetes. It's known as type 1.5 diabetes or LADA (which stands for "latent autoimmune diabetes in adults").
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Similar to type 1, LADA is an autoimmune response—the body attacks the beta cells in the pancreas that are responsible for producing insulin. However, LADA generally affects people over age 30, and they don't tend to require additional insulin until months or years after diagnosis.1
Many people with LADA are initially diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. In fact, research suggests that up to 10% of people diagnosed with type 2 may actually have LADA—making it even more prevalent than type 1.2.
How is LADA recognized?
Signs that a person may have LADA rather than type 2 diabetes can include:
- Being thin
- Having a family history of autoimmune disease
- Difficulty controlling blood glucose with medications and lifestyle changes
- Healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels
However, the only way to be sure that a person has LADA is through lab tests for antibodies.
Why is this important?
If doctors recognize LADA early, they may be able to slow the progression of damage to the beta cells based on the oral diabetes medications they prescribe, or move to insulin sooner to help prevent long-term complications.2 Controlling carbohydrate intake and exercising may also help protect the beta cells from further damage.3
Research is still developing, and doctors are looking for the best ways to treat LADA. But if you think you might have LADA, open up the conversation with your healthcare team.
MayoClinic.org. I've been diagnosed with LADA—latent autoimmune diabetes in adults. What's the difference between it and other forms of diabetes? Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/type-1-diabetes/expert-ans.... Accessed March 22, 2017.
Laugesen E, Østergaard JA and Leslie RDG. Latent autoimmune diabetes of the adult: current knowledge and uncertainty. Diabet Med. 2015;32(7): 843-852. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4676295/. Accessed March 22, 2017.
OnTrack Diabetes. Latent autoimmune diabetes in adults. Available at: https://www.ontrackdiabetes.com/type-2-diabetes/latent-autoimmune-diabet.... Accessed October 23, 2018.