LADA or Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults has been a pretty big topic of discussion over the last year, with an estimated 10% of Type 2 diabetes diagnoses being labeled as LADA. Most of the talk has been about the misdiagnosis of LADA as Type 2 diabetes, because its symptoms show up later in life. LADA, however, shares a lot of similarities with Type 1 diabetes as well.
Here’s what you should know about LADA diabetes, which is also being called Type 1.5 diabetes, because of the commonalities it shares with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.
1. Signs and symptoms of LADA usually become obvious after age 30. This is a common reason for misdiagnosis, since Type 1 diabetes is largely diagnosed during youth. Because of this, many people undergo treatment for Type 2 diabetes, which isn’t corrected until the medicine they’ve been prescribed fails to get their blood glucose levels under control.
2. LADA is more closely related with Type 1 diabetes than Type 2 diabetes. People with LADA test positively for GAD autoantibodies, which are a type of antibody that destroy the body’s own GAD (or Glutamic Acid Decarboxylase) cells and are also prevalent in people diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.
3. Absolute insulin deficiency progresses much slower with LADA. People diagnosed with LADA can sometimes still create insulin after their initial diagnosis. However, it usually progresses slowly to complete insulin deficiency over the course of 2-6 years, as opposed to Type 1 diabetes which sees the onset of total insulin deficiency much more quickly – usually within a twelve month period.
4. LADA usually requires insulin therapy. In the beginning stages of LADA, the body may still be producing insulin, and if a misdiagnosis of Type 2 diabetes has occurred, meal planning and blood glucose lowering medications may help manage blood glucose levels. But, since the same antibodies that are present in Type 1 diabetes are present in LADA, once the body reaches complete insulin dependency, artificial insulin will need to be used to effectively manage blood glucose.
5. People with LADA can experience complications from diabetes. After full insulin dependency, one of the biggest complications that can arise is ketoacidosis, which is the buildup of ketones in the body. Other complications are similar to those associated with Type 2, which include hyperglycemia, retinopathy, and neuropathy.
As with any diabetes diagnosis, one of the best ways to begin getting your health under control is to educate yourself about LADA and the signs and symptoms that accompany it. Speak to your physician about treatment and management, and join discussion groups with others in the LADA community to learn more and share your experiences.