When we talk about Diabetes, we generally specify between Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune disease, meaning at some point the body’s immune system began attacking and destroying the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. A person with Type 1 can no longer produce their own insulin and must supply themselves with insulin daily, either through injections or an insulin pump. Because Type 1 is usually diagnosed at a young age (the peak age for developing Type 1 is 13-15) it was once commonly referred to as Juvenile Diabetes.
In Type 2 Diabetes, the pancreas still produces some insulin but not enough. Because Type 2 is often diagnosed in adults, it was once referred to as Adult Onset Diabetes. As the names imply, it was generally believed that only children developed Juvenile Diabetes and if you were an adult, you had Adult Onset. We know now, though, that the age division between types of Diabetes isn’t as cut and dry as once thought.
Diabetes, whether Type 1 or Type 2, can develop at any age. Although Type 1 is commonly diagnosed in childhood and adolescence young people can also develop Type 2. Likewise, people in their 30s (or later) can be diagnosed with Type 1. LADA, or Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults, is essentially Type 1 Diabetes diagnosed in people who are older.
There is some controversy, however, over whether LADA is just a slowly progressing form of Type 1, or a unique type of Diabetes. Diagnosing Type 1 is somewhat imprecise. Relying on the presence of antibodies produced by the immune system attacking the pancreas to diagnose Type 1 is not always 100% certain. And, as insulin levels vary from person to person over the years, neither is measuring the amount of insulin produced by the pancreas.
Remember, everyone is different and management plans for Diabetes are developed around an individual’s specific needs. Talk to your health care provider or Certified Diabetes Educator if you have any questions about your care plan.
(Information reviewed by MGH Diabetes Center)