Many people know there are 2 types of diabetes. Type 1, formerly called juvenile-onset diabetes and type 2 or adult-onset diabetes. Gestational diabetes or pregnancy-induced diabetes resembles type 2.
But did you know there is a third type of diabetes known as LADA (latent autoimmune diabetes in adults) or type 1.5 diabetes?
What are the differences? Type 1 diabetes usually occurs in babies to young adulthood. Those that have some type of genetic pre-disposition to diabetes get a virus such as mononucleosis or the flu bug which triggers the pancreas to stop producing insulin. This type of diabetes requires life-long insulin therapy.
Although Type 2 diabetes used to occur later in life we are now seeing young children and adolescents develop type 2. It is brought on by a combination of genetics, weight, poor diet choices, and inactivity. Insulin resistance precedes adult onset diabetes and occurs when your insulin becomes almost “sleepy” or sluggish, which increases carbohydrate cravings, weight issues and fatigue. This type of diabetes can usually be controlled with lifestyle and oral medications.
The third type of diabetes is not as well known or understood. Rather than the insulin being resistant, with LADA or type 1.5, an individual’s insulin becomes deficient. The cells of their pancreas stop producing as much insulin as they once did - like a slowly developing type I diabetes.
This individual is usually thin, has slowly increasing blood sugars and develops diabetes over many months or years. This type of diabetes is caused by the person’s immune system which develops antibodies that attack the pancreas hence lowering the amount of insulin produced over time.
Many times this type of diabetes is misdiagnosed or treated as type 2. What do you do if you suspect you have LADA? Ask your doctor to check a blood test called the c-peptide and measure over time. C-peptide is a simple blood test which measures how much insulin your pancreas is producing. Knowing the value can determine whether your antibody levels need to be checked.
What can you do in terms of your lifestyle? Diet balance is essential and eating plenty of protein, healthy fats and moderating your carbohydrate intake with non-starchy sources such as fruits and vegetables can help give the pancreas a rest and keep your blood sugars normalized.
Exercise helps the insulin you do make much more effective and efficient - up to 50%. Besides diet and exercise, sleep and stress management are invaluable in keeping your system healthy.
If you suspect you may have LADA lifestyle and self-monitoring are of utmost importance. Knowing what to do and what parameters to check can keep your system in good health.