You’re Just my Type (of Diabetes)

January 13, 2021

Diabetes started out as one condition describing “sweet urine,” and then evolved into type 1 and type 2. Now there are many known variations of diabetes, and a new article in the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine discusses the importance of knowing someone’s diabetes type.

Generally speaking, people with type 2 diabetes still produce some insulin, but the cells in the body are resistant to letting the insulin take action. When it comes to type 1 diabetes, the body has an autoimmune response and stops making insulin. There are also some types of diabetes caused by other conditions called secondary diabetes. Some examples are steroid-induced diabetes or diabetes due to Cushing disease.

Then there are some of the less common and lesser known types of diabetes, such as Maturity Onset Diabetes of the Young (MODY), Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults (LADA), and other genetic variations. For MODY, there are at least three common types, two of which typically are able to be treated with oral medications called sulfonylureas, and one that does not typically require medication.

You may be thinking, why does this even matter? In June 2019, a study was published in Diabetologia that showed out of 583 people diagnosed with diabetes after the age of 30 and treated with insulin, 21% met the study’s criteria for type 1 diabetes. Of those 123 participants, 38% of them did not get insulin at their diagnosis.

If diabetes is misdiagnosed, that misdiagnosis can have physical and emotional ripple effects. We have had members of our diabetes community who had been misdiagnosed as type 2 and subsequently had high blood sugars despite trying multiple non-insulin medications because in reality, they needed insulin. The frustration of doing the work to manage blood glucose levels even with the right tools and medications can be overwhelming. Getting the right diagnosis is important.

You may also be thinking, “How do I know I’ve been diagnosed with the correct ‘type’ of diabetes?” It may just be worth asking your health care provider about the tests used to diagnose your diabetes. If you are insulin-dependent and have not had antibodies measured or C-peptide checked, those tests are pretty easy to get done. The antibody tests can be expensive, so you may want to check your insurance as well. (Here is some more information on antibody testing.)

The bottom line is that getting the right diagnosis can make all the difference, and no matter what type you are, CWD is here for you and we can help make life with diabetes a little easier for you.

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Written and clinically reviewed by Marissa Town, RN, BSN, CDCES