My husband, Mike, and I both have type 1 diabetes – sort of. The full story is that Mike has type 1 diabetes, and I have LADA. Are you confused, like so many others, about the distinctions between these forms of diabetes? Take a look, then, at Catherine Price’s clear-cut explanation of LADA, and how it differs from type 1. If it helps to put faces to the differences between type 1 and LADA, then check out the story below of Mike’s frightening diabetes onset versus my very mild one.
Mike’s diagnosis: Type 1: In November 2001, Mike began to feel ill. The first time he mentioned it to me we were at his cousin’s wedding. I guessed he’d had too much to drink and wasn’t especially worried. But days later, Mike still felt unwell. He was unusually tired. We attributed it to his work, long-distance runs and the sleepless nights we often had with our baby, Tom. But as weeks and then months passed, other things felt wrong, too. Mike was constantly thirsty. He drank orange juice not by the glass but by the liter. He drank milkshakes and cola throughout the day. And though he’d never had a sweet-tooth before, he began to eat enormous quantities of chocolates, cakes and biscuits – he even drank the syrup from a can of fruit cocktail.
Yet despite his gigantic calorie intake, Mike was losing weight. He thought that the weight loss could be the result of long-distance running. Then his feet went numb and his vision blurred. That’s when he went to the doctor.
Jessica ‘s diagnosis: LADA
I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes twice, first in 2000 and then in 2002 (with numbers higher than those in 2000). I was far from a typical gestational diabetes patient. I was young, and not overweight.
In the years since then, my fasting blood sugar was always borderline high, but not high enough for any doctor to make a clear-cut diabetes diagnosis. I never had any symptoms of diabetes. “You’ll probably develop type 2 at some point,” the doctor said. “You should maintain a healthy diet and exercise.” I did.
In 2008, however, while pregnant with my third child, I did an oral glucose tolerance test very early in the pregnancy. My blood sugar levels were high and it was clearly not gestational diabetes (which is only diagnosed after week 24 of pregnancy). I saw an endocrinologist who tested me for autoantibodies. Positive. He tested my c-peptide level. Low. Though I had not experienced any of the classic symptoms of type 1 onset, I was well on my way to being a type 1.
According to the JDRF Adults with type 1 toolkit, “LADA is characterized by age, a lack of family history of type 2 diabetes, a gradual increase in insulin requirements, positive antibodies, and decreasing ability to make insulin as indicated by a low C-peptide.”
My gestational diabetes in 2000 and 2002 was – hindsight 20/20 – in fact the earliest stages of LADA.
Mike likes to tease me and call me a faker, since I still produce some of my own insulin. To that I say, if I’m a poser, then he’s a copycat, because I had LADA before he had type 1, even if we didn’t know it. So there.