New Strain of 'Stealth' Diabetes

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A different, but just as dangerous, hybrid

While America's overweight epidemic fuels a dangerous rise in type 2 diabetes, researchers are beginning to pay attention to a tricky new hybrid that calls for special care and attention: diabetes type 1.5.

About 2 million Americans --10 to 15% of all adults now diagnosed with type 2 diabetes-may actually have type 1.5. And among lean people diagnosed with type 2, at least half may have it.

What Is It? Also called LADA (latent autoimmune diabetes in adults), type 1.5 strikes when your immune system slowly kills off the body's vital insulin-producing beta cells. Without insulin, blood sugar levels soar, leading to thirst, fatigue, numbness, and, eventually, complications such as heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney failure, and even amputation.

The catch: You or your doctor could miss LADA entirely if you're not over- weight and you have no other risk factors for diabetes.

Or, you could be mistakenly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and given oral medications for type 2 that won't help LADA. Your blood sugar would remain high unless you take insulin by injection.

What you can do: A blood test for type 1.5, called GAD65, is available but not widely used in doctors' offices. Insurance may not cover it. Here's what diabetes experts recommend instead.

If you're over 50, normal weight, and have no family history of diabetes: Ask your doctor about a fasting blood sugar test if you have any telltale signs of diabetes, such as thirst, fatigue that won't quit, a frequent need to urinate, or unexplained weight loss.

If you've been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, especially if you're nat overweight: Monitor your blood sugar as your doctor recommends, and discuss whether or not you need to take insulin.

PHOTO (COLOR): Stop diabetes misdiagnosis.

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By Kasia Dawidowska

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