Do you know about type 1.5 diabetes?

Do you know that up to 25 percent of people suffering from type 2 diabetes may also be suffering from type 1.5 diabetes?  Type 1.5 is a mix of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes?   To comprehend type 1.5 diabetes, let us first try to understand Type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system mistakenly targets and destroys the beta cells of the pancreas resulting in the negligible production of insulin. Insulin is a key hormone responsible for maintenance of normal blood sugar levels. In the absence of insulin, the body is unable to use sugar as a source of energy resulting in elevated sugar levels.

Type 1 diabetes is also called insulin-dependent diabetes because it requires daily administration of insulin.  It is also referred to as juvenile diabetes as it is commonly diagnosed in children but may occur at any age. The symptoms of type 1 diabetes include constant thirst, general tiredness, frequent urination, unexplained weight loss and itchiness in the genitals.

The exact causes of type 1 diabetes are not known. Genetic predisposition with environmental factors acting as the trigger may cause type 1 diabetes.  If not treated in time it can prove fatal.

Type 1 diabetes requires a regular dose of insulin.  The administration of insulin starts soon after its diagnosis and continues for life. The management of blood sugar levels is vital in type 1 diabetes. To do so, the patient must track the daily sugar levels. Both high blood sugar and low blood sugar are dangerous for the patient.  Along with insulin, dietary changes and exercise are also recommended.

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder that also results in high blood sugar level. In this type of diabetes, insulin production is higher than normal.  But these higher levels are ineffective in maintaining sugar levels. The high insulin levels result in a phenomenon called insulin resistance. In insulin resistance, the body tissues stop responding to insulin and higher and higher amount of insulin is needed to do the same work.

Type 2 diabetes is a dietary disease and caused by years of improper diet and lifestyle. Diets high in processed carbohydrates and sugar cause insulin to rise. Insulin, in turn, signals the body cells to take in sugar and store the rest in liver and muscles as glycogen and in fat cells as fat. Over a period of time cells refuse to take in more sugar and develop immunity to insulin. To make the cells take in sugar, the pancreas increases the production of insulin. For some time, this self-stroking cycle of high carbohydrate diet, high insulin, and high-fat storage continues. Then comes a point when the pancreas gives up and the production of insulin slows down resulting in type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance is also closely associated with obesity as the increasingly higher amount of sugar is stored as fat.

The symptoms of type 2 diabetes are excessive thirst, frequent urination, increased hunger, excessive tiredness and loss of muscle mass.

Type 2 diabetes is reversible by making appropriate dietary and lifestyle changes. Instead of relying on medications that focus on the symptom of the disease namely maintaining the blood sugar levels, a holistic approach targeting the root cause of the disease need to be embraced.

Insulin is generally not used in the treatment. But in a few cases where insulin production has drastically reduced, insulin injections or pumps are used as a part of the treatment.

Type 1.5 Diabetes or Latent Autoimmune Diabetes of Adulthood

Type 1.5 diabetes is also referred to as Latent Autoimmune Diabetes of Adulthood or LADA. It is a form of type 1 diabetes that develops later in life. It is diagnosed in people aged above 30 years with the presence of any one of the three antibodies associated with type 1 diabetes. The presence of antibodies signifies the autoimmune genesis of the disease.

Up to 25 percent of people suffering from type 2 diabetes may also have type 1.5 diabetes. This phenomenon is known as double diabetes.  It shows the features of both insulin resistance and gradual decline of insulin. 

Unlike in Type 1 diabetes, insulin is not immediately required in LADA.  There is the slower onset of diabetes symptoms. Generally, the need for insulin rises on an average after 6 years of initial diagnosis.

Since Type 1  shares a few features of type 2 diabetes, it is often misdiagnosed as type 2. It is only after medication fails to normalize blood sugar levels that doctors prescribe further tests. Around 15-20 percent of people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes may actually be suffering from type 1.5 diabetes. 

The symptoms of LADA include constant tiredness, foggy headedness, and constant hunger.

Initial treatment concentrates on dietary and lifestyle changes. The idea is to maintain the functions of the pancreas for a longer time. But as the disease progresses, insulin production falls requiring administration of insulin.

It is important to understand differences between type 1.5 and type 2 diabetes and take corrective actions before it is too late.