I've been diagnosed with LADA — latent autoimmune diabetes in adults. What's the difference between it and other forms of diabetes?

Answers from M. Regina Castro, M.D.

Latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA) is a slow progressing form of autoimmune diabetes. Like the autoimmune disease type 1 diabetes, LADA occurs because your pancreas stops producing adequate insulin, most likely from some "insult" that slowly damages the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. But unlike type 1 diabetes, with LADA, you often won't need insulin for several months up to years after you've been diagnosed.

Many researchers believe LADA, sometimes called type 1.5 diabetes, is a subtype of type 1 diabetes. Other researchers believe diabetes occurs on a continuum, with LADA falling between type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

People who have LADA are usually over age 30. Because they're older when symptoms develop than is typical for someone with type 1 diabetes and because initially their pancreases still produce some insulin, people with LADA are often misdiagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

If you've been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and you're lean and physically active or you've recently lost weight without effort, talk with your doctor about whether your current treatment is still the best one for you.

At first, LADA can be managed by controlling your blood sugar with diet, weight reduction if appropriate, exercise and, possibly, oral medications. But as your body gradually loses its ability to produce insulin, insulin shots will eventually be needed.

More research is needed before the best way to treat LADA is established. Talk with your doctor about the best LADA treatment options for you. As with any type of diabetes, you'll need close follow-up to minimize progression of your diabetes and potential complications.


M. Regina Castro, M.D.

Oct. 19, 2016