‘Type 1.5 diabetes’ isn’t a medical diagnosis. Here’s what it actually means

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More Canadians getting diagnosed with rarer forms of diabetes
ABOVE: More Canadians getting diagnosed with rarer forms of diabetes – Nov 14, 2019

André Morriseau was first diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes more than 15 years ago.

The Toronto resident was in his 40s and tells Global News that at first, he was shocked.

“At that time I jogged, I didn’t smoke [and] I wasn’t overweight,” he said.

“The doctor said, ‘if you were any of those things, we could try to treat you backwards… lose weight, quit smoking.'”

Instead, doctors put him on a medication called metformin, but a year later, he was told he would be put in insulin.

READ MORE: Type 2 diabetes may be preventable, but why isn’t Type 1?

Nov. 14 is World Diabetes Day, and Morriseau said it’s important to understand what a diagnosis can mean.

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“I fooled myself into thinking that I was invincible and that if I just took the insulin and continued to do my thing, it’s OK,” he continued.

“I came to the realization I need to be serious about my diabetes and do as I’m told.”

Click to play video: 'World Diabetes Day'
World Diabetes Day

But six months ago, Morriseau got some interesting news. His doctor told him he could’ve had Type 1 diabetes all along. He was also told it could be Type 1.5 diabetes.

“I’ve been told that’s not an actual diagnosis,” Morriseau said. And it’s not.

Seema Nagpal, vice president of science and policy at Diabetes Canada tells Global News some people refer to latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA) as “Type 1.5 diabetes.”

“The term [is] used to describe the small number of people with apparent Type 2 diabetes who appear to have immune-mediated loss of pancreatic beta cells,” she said.
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The differences between the types

Nagpal says there are several types of diabetes.

“The majority of cases of diabetes can be broadly classified into two categories: Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes,” she continued. “Although some cases are difficult to classify.”

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition in which the body is unable to produce insulin, Kimberley Hanson, the executive director of federal affairs at Diabetes Canada, previously told Global News. Type 1 diabetes is neither preventable nor curable.

READ MORE: With Type 2 diabetes on the rise in kids, what does that say about efforts to encourage healthy living?

“For reasons that we don’t understand fully, the body’s immune system starts to recognize the cells in our body that produce insulin as foreign, and kills them,” she said.

Type 2 diabetes is when someone is either not making enough insulin or they are not able to use they insulin they make effectively. However, unlike Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 can be managed and put into remission by diet and lifestyle changes.

Gestational diabetes, Nagpal added, refers to glucose intolerance with onset or first recognition during pregnancy.

“In addition, prediabetes is another important diagnosis that indicates an elevated risk of developing diabetes,” she said.

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What is Type 1.5 diabetes?

Although it is not a medical diagnosis, the term “Type 1.5 diabetes” has been recently spotted in U.K. media. Diabetes U.K. noted LADA can be defined as people who “straddle” the boundary between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. 

“It’s not actually classified as a separate type of diabetes at the moment, but there’s some medical research going on to try and pinpoint exactly what makes it different from Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes,” the organization noted.

Symptoms of LADA include frequent urination, frequent thirst, feeling tired and losing weight. “But [symptoms] generally come on much slower than they do with Type 1, over months rather than weeks,” the organization said.

“And the symptoms are more obvious and often come on more quickly than you’d expect with Type 2.”

READ MORE: Diabetes Canada says education is key after teen on Victoria bus denied snack to treat low blood sugar

The organization added LADA can be hard to diagnose and as a result, patients could be diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes instead.

“It’s usually diagnosed in people aged 30 to 50 years old.”

Click to play video: 'Can you reverse Type 2 diabetes by changing your diet?'
Can you reverse Type 2 diabetes by changing your diet?

Dr. Regina Castro, an expert at the Mayo Clinic, noted more research on LADA needs to be done — and some health care experts avoid the term Type 1.5 diabetes altogether. 

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“Other researchers believe diabetes occurs on a continuum, with LADA falling between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes,” she noted.

She adds if you have been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and you make significant lifestyle changes, talk to your doctor about your medication routine.

“Talk with your doctor about the best LADA treatment options for you,” Castro said. “As with any type of diabetes, you’ll need close follow-up to minimize progression of your diabetes and potential complications.”

— with files from Jeff Semple, Laura Hensley 

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