I was minding my own business as usual. My sugar is pretty low at 5.3 and I’m not eating dinner for another 1-2 hours, so I pop a lollipop into my mouth (a Tootsie pop no less, I got some ‘Murican candy!) and go take out the trash. As soon as my neighbor spots me with the lollipop, he stops me and asks with great concern: “Why are you eating candy. Aren’t you diabetic?”
I stare at him for a couple of seconds, firstly wondering why he’s not minding his own damn business. Then I wonder why he never retains any information as I explained this to him before, but all the alcohol and pot he consumes killed off large portions of his brain. So I sigh, put down my trash and go over this again.
“As a diabetic my body doesn’t handle insulin the way healthy people do. When I’m active and take my meds properly, sometimes my bloodsugar goes too low. If I don’t eat within the next hour of that happening, I eat some candy to tide me over until I can enjoy regular food.”
He gives me this braindead stare as per usual, nods and says “That’s good then.”
Besides the frustration of having a neighbor who’s as stupid as this, I frequently realize people know a lot of conditions, but they have absolutely zero knowledge on what they mean. I’m a diabetic and I can’t eat candy freely whenever I want to, but there are certainly moments where I can enjoy it – whether you’re a type 1 or a type 2 or a type 1.5, it’s not off limits at all.
My biggest issue is people not wanting to understand type 1.5 exists though. It’s not as uncommon as is often assumed, but a general consensus among diabetics is that type 2’s are often misdiagnosed and are actually type 1.5’s.
So… what IS type 1.5 diabetes?
It’s also known as LADA, or Latent Auto-immune Diabetes in Adults. In layman’s terms it’s a slow form of type 1 that starts in adulthood as opposed to childhood, and insulin dependency may not occur for many years after the diagnosis. The initial symptoms are often similar to type 2 diabetes, but blood work shows that the body fights the insulin producing beta-cells in the pancreas and is very slowly killing them. Still, not every doctor acknowledges 1.5, and not every doctor tests for it. I was very lucky that my doctor told me, “You’re too young for a full blown type 2 diabetes like this, but also too old for type 1. Chances are you’re a type 1.5, so let’s get some blood work done to confirm!” Despite being overweight and it being easy to blame on my lifestyle, my doctor made sure of it because not everything added up, and she’s awesome for that!
Initially oral medication can help. Metformin for example helps to increase insulin sensitivity in the body and lower the glucose output of the liver. Gliclazide helps the existing beta-cells to produce more insulin to make up for the loss of the other beta cells. This combination has worked wonders for me and my bloodsugar is now largely under control. However, when we have to keep increasing the dosages, possibly maxing them out, it is time for me to switch to insulin because the oral medication is no longer able to do what is needed. This could be 6 years from now, or 6 months – it differs greatly per person, but it’s happening. Some doctors choose to treat this with insulin immediately, but it depends on the person. I’m personally in favor of trying meds first, because the longer your pancreas can do this on its own, the better! But it’s important to talk with your doctor about it no matter what.
This is also why many of us believe a whole lot of type 2’s are misdiagnosed, especially if they’re doing everything right. They eat proper diets, they exercise, they lose weight, they take their medication as prescribed and go to their checkups frequently. Then one day they’re told they have to go on insulin because they’re no longer making any insulin themselves, the meds no longer work and something didn’t work out for them. Besides it making them feel like crap as if all their efforts didn’t matter, following the wrong treatment plan can also have negative consequences on one’s health.
There are still people who try to deny the existence of type 1.5 and this is baffling and worrisome. It’s real. I have the blood work to prove that my diabetes is the auto-immune kind, not type 2. But I’m also on meds, not insulin, and it’s working for the time being. Some refer to this as the ‘honeymoon phase’ of type 1, but I don’t believe it’s the same thing at all.
Either way, if you’re a type 2 and you’re doing everything right and it’s still not working, consider asking your doctor for blood work to test for the antibodies. It may drastically alter the course of your condition and treatment plan – for the better!