LADA: When It’s More Than Just Type 2 Diabetes
In 2019, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes (T2D), but I always felt like my case was unusual. My initial diagnosis did not match my symptoms. About 6 to 8 months prior, I had chronic hives and iron deficiency anemia. Yet, I was never diagnosed with prediabetes. I wasn't sure how to communicate that to my primary care doctor or where to start searching for answers.
Still, I accepted my diagnosis and managed my condition for 2 years.
Do I really have T2D?
It wasn't until I heard about similar experiences from others within my diabetes support communities that I realized that my doubts were not uncommon. Several people shared their stories about feeling unheard by their doctors. Many of them were people with T2D who reported having similar symptoms and risk factors. Later, they were diagnosed with latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA).
What is latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA)?
LADA is a slower-progressing form of type 1 diabetes (T1D) in adults after age 30. In LADA, the body's immune system attacks and kills the pancreas's beta cells slower than in T1D. Beta cells produce insulin. When your body can't make insulin, your body cannot regulate your blood sugar.1
LADA is sometimes misdiagnosed as T2D. It's estimated that about 15 percent of people with T2D actually have LADA. Getting the wrong diagnosis puts people at risk for complications like diabetic ketoacidosis.1
I sought a second opinion about my diagnosis
The biggest takeaway I learned from my diabetes online community? People recognized that their symptoms went beyond T2D and self-advocated for a correct diagnosis. The more I listened to these misdiagnosis stories, the more parallels I found with my own diabetes diagnosis. Ultimately, I decided to seek a second opinion.
Finding out my true diagnosis of LADA
Before approaching my endocrinologist with my concerns, I did additional research to learn about LADA. While researching, I found there are certain typical characteristics when you have LADA:2
- Adult age of onset (greater than 30 years old)
- Family or personal history of autoimmunity
- Compared with T2D:
- Lower BMI
- Lower blood pressure
- Normal levels of HDL (good cholesterol)
I checked all these boxes: I was 40 years old at the time of my LADA diagnosis, with a family history of autoimmunity. I had lower blood pressure, lower BMI, and normal HDL levels.
As I expressed my concerns about my risk factors for LADA and the circumstances surrounding my initial T2D diagnosis, I asked my endocrinologist for additional testing. My endocrinologist agreed with me and decided to test me for LADA.
LADA testing experience
My endocrinologist advised me to get my levels of C peptide and glutamic acid decarboxylase autoantibody (GADA) tested.
C peptide is a substance your pancreas produces as part of making insulin. The GADA test is 1 of 4 available tests used to diagnose LADA and the most commonly performed. The test is used to detect the presence of GADAs in the body. GADAs are proteins that your body makes as part of its immune response. The GADA test is useful in detecting T1D.1,3,4
My test results
Although my level of C peptide was in range, my GADA test confirmed that I had the antibody. My levels were over 25,000 units per milliliter (U/mL), which is higher than the normal range of 0.0 to 5.0 U/mL.2
After being misdiagnosed with T2D for almost 3 years, I was finally diagnosed with LADA in January 2022.
Life after proper diagnosis
I was diagnosed with LADA at an early stage. I manage my condition with oral medicines, diet, and a continuous glucose monitor (CGM). This allows me to observe trends in my blood sugar levels to know when to add insulin to my regimen.
Although being diagnosed with LADA was unexpected and burdensome, I am grateful to those who shared their stories. This motivated me to listen to my instincts and seek a second opinion. It would have been a very different story for me if I hadn't sought a second opinion. Without a proper diagnosis, I would have experienced complications that could have been avoided.
Address your concerns early and often
I encourage you to contact your healthcare professional immediately if:
- You don't see results
- Your blood sugar numbers are creeping up without you making any changes to your current diabetes management plan
- Your symptoms are consistent with LADA
You can prevent possible complications and save your life by addressing your concerns as early as possible.
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