More than 100 million people in the US have diabetes¹ or are prediabetic, and 2%–12%² of all diabetes cases are type 1.5 diabetes.
This form of diabetes shares characteristics of type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Like other forms of diabetes, it's often manageable through blood sugar level monitoring and medication. With the right treatment plan, people with type 1.5 diabetes can lead healthy, happy lives.
An early diagnosis can help improve the outcome of treatment. Learn more about type 1.5 diabetes including the symptoms, who are most at risk, and when you should talk to a doctor.
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Type 1.5 diabetes is also known as latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA). It shares characteristics of type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Type 1.5 diabetes is diagnosed in adulthood, typically after the age of 30³, which is a characteristic shared with type 2 diabetes. Because of this, many people with type 1.5 diabetes are initially misdiagnosed with type 2. However, they may not have some of the common factors associated with type 2 diabetes, including a high BMI and a sedentary lifestyle. Because of this, people with type 1.5 diabetes won't be able to control their blood sugar levels on a long-term basis through diet and lifestyle changes.
Like type 1 diabetes, type 1.5 is an autoimmune disease. In both conditions, the body produces antibodies that attack the pancreas, which is responsible for the production of insulin. Unlike type 1, though, the destruction of the pancreatic cells is more gradual. People with type 1.5 diabetes won't require additional insulin until at least six months after their initial diagnosis⁴.
Feeling thirstier than usual
Needing to pass urine more frequently
Unexplained weight loss
Numbness in your hands or feet
Cuts and bruises healing more slowly than normal
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your primary healthcare physician. They can diagnose type 1.5 diabetes or other underlying health concerns and start you on a treatment plan.
You may be more at risk of developing LADA if you:
Are overweight or obese
Have a sedentary lifestyle
Had a low birth weight
Are a smoker
While researchers are still exploring why some people develop type 1.5 diabetes, there does appear to be a genetic link⁵. You may be more at risk of developing LADA if you have a family history of autoimmune disorders.
Because there is a genetic factor, you may not be able to prevent the development of type 1.5 diabetes. However, as with all forms of diabetes, it can help to maintain a healthy diet low in sugar and carbohydrates, and high in lean protein. At least 30 minutes of exercise a day will help to naturally balance your blood sugar level.
Early diagnosis of the condition can help slow its progression. Treatment options will aim to control blood sugar levels while trying to preserve pancreatic cells that produce insulin. This can help your body continue to produce insulin naturally, and delay dependency on medication and injections. Early diagnosis can also help you avoid complications of type 1.5 diabetes, including ketoacidosis (production of high levels of blood acids called ketones).
There is no specific treatment protocol for LADA yet³. Treatments commonly prescribed for the management of type 2 diabetes can be effective in managing type 1.5 diabetes. These treatments might include a combination of:
Diet: Eat foods low in carbohydrates and high in lean proteins and vegetables.
Exercise: Keeping active can help balance blood sugar levels naturally, so getting at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily is a good place to start.
Oral medications may also be prescribed for type 1.5 diabetes management. However, people with type 1.5 diabetes may not respond well to oral medication. As your body stops producing insulin, you'll need to start having insulin injections.
With the right treatment and careful monitoring of your blood sugar levels, type 1.5 diabetes is a manageable condition. It's possible to live a long and healthy life after a type 1.5 diabetes diagnosis.
Be aware of the symptoms of type 1.5 diabetes described above. If you experience any of these or other new symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor. An early diagnosis can help improve your outcome.
Type 1.5 diabetes, also known as latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA), affects 2%–12% of people with diabetes. LADA shares characteristics of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. It's diagnosed later in life, like type 2 diabetes, but is an autoimmune disorder, like type 1 diabetes.
It's caused by antibodies gradually attacking pancreatic cells, which are responsible for the production of insulin. As the body's insulin production slows and then stops, you'll need to take insulin to help balance your blood sugar levels.
Because there is a genetic link, it may not be possible to prevent the development of type 1.5 diabetes. However, there are treatment options available, including oral medication and insulin injections, that can make the condition manageable. With the right treatment options and consistent blood sugar level monitoring, it's possible to live a long and healthy life with type 1.5 diabetes.
New CDC report: More than 100 million Americans have diabetes or prediabetes | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention