Who here got diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in their '20s, '30s, or even '40s? If so, you are (like me), a victim of Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults (LADA), once considered exceedingly rare but less and less so each year.
LADA is also referred to as "Slow Onset Type 1" or sometimes "Type 1.5" diabetes. Note that lots of physicians are still unfamiliar with it (!)
Often, because of their age, patients with LADA are automatically assumed to have Type 2 diabetes. That's what the doctors told me during my initial hospital stay. I was 37 years old, and had lost 20 pounds within less than three weeks. (I was close to going into ketoacidosis and diabetic coma, although I didn't feel that sick.)
It is now thought up to 20 percent of patients with apparent Type 2 diabetes really have LADA. Read the basics on LADA over at Diabetes Monitor.
A few essential things to know if you've been diagnosed with LADA:
- The Viral Theory - Why did you suddenly develop Type 1 diabetes at this "late age"? Many researchers believe that "one or more viral infections may trigger the disease in genetically susceptible individuals."
- Insulin Honeymoon - For a happy period right after diagnosis, your pancreas is still able to put out some small amounts of insulin, so your necessary doses will be low, and you'll likely achieve very good BG results. Unfortunately, the honeymoon will end within a few months -- or at the latest, a year or two down the road. Be prepared.
- Complications Clock - Diabetic complications (you know, the nasty stuff) are the result of months and years of high blood sugars, or simply having diabetes for a very long period of time. For LADAs like us, the "complications clock" has just been switched on. So if you keep your blood sugars in range, your chances of developing complications are low. Also, people with Type 1.5 usually don't have same high risk for heart problems often found in high-cholesterol and high bloodpressure Type 2 patients.
- A New Way of Life - You probably already figured out that you need to rethink your life as you know it. It is now your prerogative to carry monitor, glucose tabs, insulin pump/pen and needles at all times; learn to inject yourself throughout the day; navigate the American healthcare system; and ward off the feeling that you're somehow being punished. Don't think for a minute that you can ignore this thing. I'm here to help.
- Finding Your Community - You may have checked out the American Diabetes Association (ADA) website and also the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) website, and still not felt like you've found a "home" for adults newly diagnosed with Type 1. This is indeed a gap that needs to be filled. But if you've found your way here to DiabetesMine.com, then you've discovered the Diabetes OC (online community), where you'll meet many kindred spirits. I am also soon to become community manager of a new online community called Diabetic Connect, where I hope to welcome as many LADAs as other types of PWDs (people with diabetes).
Please know that you are not alone in your LADA-ism. You are not a freak. And your life is NOT over. It has, in fact, in many ways, just begun! Thanks for visiting me here at DiabetesMine.