Many diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes may have a different form of the disease

What are the types of diabetes? Adults with an autoimmune form of diabetes are often misdiagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.

When Phyllisa Deroze was told she had diabetes in a Fayetteville, North Carolina, emergency department years ago, she was handed pamphlets with information on two types of the disease. One had pictures of children on it, she recalled, while the other had pictures of seniors.

Deroze, a 31-year-old English professor at the time, was confused about which images were meant to depict her. Initially, she was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, as shown on the pamphlet with older adults. It would be eight years before she learned she had a different form of diabetes — one that didn’t fit neatly on either pamphlet.

The condition is often called latent autoimmune diabetes of adults, or LADA for short. Patients with it can be misdiagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and spend months or years trying to manage the wrong condition. As many as 10% of patients diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes might actually have LADA, said Jason Gaglia, an endocrinologist at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston.

Deroze and three other LADA patients who spoke with KFF Health News, all Black women, are among those who were initially misdiagnosed. Without the correct diagnosis — which can be confirmed through blood tests — they described being denied the medicines, technology, and tests to properly treat their diabetes. Three of them wonder if their race played a role.

“That does seem to happen more frequently for African American patients and for other minoritized groups,” said Rochelle Naylor, a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of Chicago who researches atypical forms of diabetes. “Doctors, like any other person walking this planet, we all have implicit biases that impact our patient experiences and our patient care delivery.”

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Updated: 3 months ago
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