LADA Awareness Week

"Who can tell us about LADA?"

This is the first ever LADA Awareness Week, organized by Diabetes Hands Foundation and dLife.  LADA stands for Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults.  I think of it as type 1 diabetes that starts in adulthood, although there are some differences from typical juvenile-onset type 1 diabetes.

Seven-and-a-half to 10% of apparent type 2 adult diabetics have LADA.  It’s caused by the body attacking its own pancreas beta cells and thereby impairing insulin production; in other words, it’s an autoimmune thing.

Here are some generalities (with exceptions, of course) about LADA, compared to typical type 2 diabetes:

  • lower body mass index, often under 25
  • age at onset under 50
  • poorer response to dietary management
  • poorer response to oral diabetic medications
  • acute symptoms at time of diagnosis (e.g., weight loss, thirst, frequent urination, ketoacidosis, malaise, etc.)
  • higher risk of developing diabetic ketoacidosis
  • much more likely to need insulin

How Is LADA Diagnosed?

First of all, the doctor has to consider the possibility, based on the clinical factors above.  The autoimmune nature of the disease is reflected in islet-cell antiobodies (ICA) and antibodies to glutamic acid decarboxylase (anti-GAD).  These are testable in the blood.  One of the two may be enough.  If the disease is far enough along, blood levels of C-peptide will be low.  C-peptide reflects the body’s production of insulin.

For more information on LADA, talk to your doctor or visit this page at dLife.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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