Latent autoimmune diabetes of adults, or LADA, is often referred to as type 1.5 diabetes. As with type 1 diabetes, LADA is an autoimmune disorder in which the body destroys the beta cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. LADA may also be referred to as slow-onset type 1 diabetes or late-onset autoimmune diabetes of adults.
Is LADA the same as type 1 diabetes?
Although many people assume that age is the defining characteristic of LADA, experts note that LADA and type 1 are not the same thing. LADA differs from type 1 diabetes in that the disease progresses gradually. People with type 1 diabetes are typically completely dependent on insulin within 12 months of diagnosis. By contrast, many people with LADA still produce some insulin and may not require insulin injections for several years following diagnosis. They are often able to control their blood sugar through meal planning, oral medication, and lifestyle changes. As the disease progresses and the beta cells are further destroyed, the pancreas produces less and less insulin.
LADA is often misdiagnosed
Adults with LADA are frequently misdiagnosed as having type 2 diabetes. However, people with LADA do not have insulin resistance, which is a key characteristic of type 2 diabetes. According to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), “LADA is characterized by age (over 30), a lack of family history of type 2 diabetes, a gradual increase in insulin requirements, positive antibodies, and decreasing ability to make insulin as indicated by a low C-peptide.”
The National Institutes of Health estimates that 10 percent of people who have been diagnosed as type 2 diabetics may actually have LADA. A misdiagnosis of this nature can lead to months or even years of incorrect treatment, putting patients at a risk of further complications and frustrations as they attempt to find the best approach for controlling their diabetes. If you’ve been diagnosed with type 2 but your ability to control your blood glucose with lifestyle changes and oral medications has diminished over time, you may want to ask your doctor to test you for LADA.
Some medical professionals may also use the term 1.5, or “double diabetes” to refer to type 2 diabetics who later lose the ability to produce insulin.