I've been diagnosed with LADA — latent autoimmune diabetes in adults. What's the difference between this and other forms of diabetes?
Answer From M. Regina Castro, M.D.
Latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA) is a type of diabetes that starts in adulthood and slowly gets worse over time. Like type 1 diabetes, LADA happens when the pancreas stops making insulin. That's usually because an autoimmune process is damaging cells in the pancreas. But unlike type 1 diabetes, in LADA, the process happens slowly. So people who have LADA often don't need to take insulin right away.
Many researchers believe LADA is a form of type 1 diabetes that develops much more slowly in adults. It's sometimes called type 1.5 diabetes. But some question if LADA should be classified differently in that way. Instead, they see it as the same disease, type 1 diabetes, that happens differently in adults than it does in children.
Symptoms usually start in people who have LADA when they are over 30. That's older than is typical for someone with type 1 diabetes. Because of that, and because the pancreas still makes some insulin, many people with LADA are first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes by mistake.
People diagnosed with type 2 diabetes who are lean and physically active, or who have lost weight without effort, could have LADA. It's important for those individuals to ask their health care providers if their current diabetes treatment is still the best one for them.
At first,LADA may be managed with lifestyle changes such as exercising regularly, losing weight, making healthy diet choices, and quitting smoking. Medicine taken by mouth to lower blood sugar also may be part of a LADA treatment plan. But as the body slowly loses its ability to make insulin, most people with LADA eventually need insulin shots.
Research is still looking into the best way to treat LADA. Talk with your health care provider about the right treatment for you. As with any type of diabetes, you'll need ongoing care to help slow the progression of LADA and to watch for other health problems that may develop due to the disease.
M. Regina Castro, M.D.
June 14, 2023
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See more Expert Answers
- Balasubramanyam A. Classification of diabetes mellitus and genetic diabetic syndromes. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Feb. 13, 2023.
- American Diabetes Association. Classification and diagnosis of diabetes: Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes — 2023. Diabetes Care. 2023; doi:10.2337/dc23-S002.
- Buzzetti R, et al. Management of latent autoimmune diabetes in adults: A consensus statement from an international expert panel. Diabetes. 2020; doi:10.2337/dbi20-0017.
- Hu J, et al. Latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA): From immunopathogenesis to immunotherapy. Frontiers in Endocrinology. 2022; doi:10.3389/fendo.2022.917169.