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I May Have T1D Rather Than T2D?

Misdiagnosis of Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

Just as some children with type 1 diabetes are incorrectly assessed with the flu or some other viral infection, recent studies indicated that up to 40% of adults with type 1 diabetes are misdiagnosed with type 2 diabetes. These dangerous miscalculations and insufficient testing may lead to hospitalization with severe diabetic ketoacidosis, diabetic coma and even death.

Misdiagnosis of Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

Read on to understand the importance of proper testing and the potential consequences of diabetes misdiagnosis. 

Receiving a Misdiagnosis of Diabetes

No one likes receiving the news they have type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Whichever diabetes diagnosis you receive, it’s probably not what you hoped to hear.

But what if you received the wrong diagnosis from a medical professional? This can be very disheartening since you count on your primary care doctor for your well-being. As frustrating as it can be, sometimes a second opinion is essential to your health. Receiving the correct treatment is a vital step in feeling better. 

First, let's look at the main types and terms for diabetes. 

Different Types of Diabetes

Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes Mellitus is another term for diabetes, a chronic metabolic disorder that happens when the pancreas stops producing enough insulin or the body’s cells don’t respond to insulin. The result is sustained high blood sugar levels. 

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is the autoimmune type that occurs when the body’s immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. What was initially called juvenile diabetes and considered a disease that mainly affected children and adolescents, we now know that “adult onset type 1 diabetes is more common than childhood-onset type 1 diabetes.” A recent study from the American Diabetes Association (ADA) Diabetes Standard of Care states that “recent epidemiological data have shown that more than half of all new cases of type 1 diabetes occur in adults. 

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes (T2D) occurs when the body’s cells become resistant to insulin, causing blood sugar levels to rise. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 462 million people have diabetes, or 6.28% of the global population, and about 38 million Americans, one in 10 people in the United States, have T2D. 

Latent Autoimmune Diabetes

Latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA) is a type of adult-onset diabetes, also known as type 1.5 diabetes. This chronic autoimmune condition does not need insulin for the first six months after diagnosis. It has similar features to both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. 

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is diagnosed during pregnancy in women who don’t have diabetes. Like in T2D, the body can’t produce enough insulin, which allows blood sugar to enter cells for energy, resulting in insulin resistance and high blood sugar levels.

Why Proper Testing Saves Lives

If you’ve received the wrong diagnosis, it can be challenging to trust your healthcare team again. Most importantly, an incorrect diagnosis delays you from reaching your wellness goals. 

If your diagnosis is type 1, you should have been prescribed insulin, the only treatment for type 1 diabetes. But instead, if you were told that you have type 2 diabetes - the treatment is entirely different. Individuals with type 2 diabetes might begin with an oral medication combined with a diet and exercise regime. Over time, insulin or injectable medication will be added if blood sugar levels are not managed well with the oral medication. 

Either way, there are different, individualized treatments for both diseases.

Receiving the Wrong Diagnosis

There are numerous consequences for misdiagnosing adult-onset type 1 diabetes as type 2 diabetes, such as diabetic ketoacidosis and worsened glucose control. Adult-onset type 1 diabetes has serious consequences, with high blood sugar levels, weight loss, and 11% of people developing ketoacidosis within the first year of diagnosis. Of those diagnosed, 89% require insulin treatment.

‍Diabetes Misdiagnosis is on the Rise

Sadly, this misdiagnosis trend with diabetes is only rising. It’s estimated that up to 40% of adults 30 years and older who actually have type 1 diabetes have been misdiagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

One difficulty is that the symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes can overlap. It appears that many doctors presume that when a patient is overweight, they could be exhibiting the signs of type 2. A type 2 misdiagnosis also happens in adults, when actually T1D can affect people as young as six months of age up into their 70s and 80s. 

Without testing, many then begin taking type 2 diabetic medications while still being an undiagnosed type 1 patient.

Risk Factor of Misdiagnosed Type 2‍

The difference between type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes treatment is significant and makes a world of difference. Once you are “diagnosed and prescribed treatment,” you expect to begin feeling and getting better. But, when prescribed the wrong medication for the incorrect disease, it’s impossible to feel that way.

Unfortunately, it’s common to hear about these misdiagnosed stories. One of the main problems is that these “misdiagnoses” significantly affect the bodies and minds of those living in them. It’s challenging to feel well when blood sugars continue running high while taking incorrect medication. The mind gets foggy, and the body just doesn’t feel well.

Proper Testing Can Save Lives‍

It is recommended that anyone with symptoms of diabetes should get tested, as well as pregnant women should be tested for gestational diabetes. For me, I had gestational diabetes, which was found with a finger stick (400 BS!) during a regular OB appointment. It’s incredible what a difference it makes getting a test and knowing what is wrong. My sweet daughter and I finally started feeling better.

Various tests can be performed to determine whether you are diabetic. Most are simple and easy to do. At times, a doctor may run a second test to confirm the results.

Different Types of Diabetes Tests

Fasting Plasma Glucose Test

This glucose test measures your blood sugar after an overnight fast without the influence of food. A fasting blood sugar level of 99 mg/dL or lower is considered normal. 100 to 125 mg/dL indicates you have prediabetes, and 126 mg/dL or higher indicates you have diabetes. 

A1C

The A1C test is generally done with a finger stick, and the results show an average blood glucose level for the previous three months.

Random Plasma Glucose

A random plasma glucose test is done when your doctor doesn’t want to wait for an eight-hour fast.

Glucose Challenge Test

For the glucose challenge test, a blood sample is taken one hour after drinking a sweet liquid containing glucose. No fasting is needed.

Oral Glucose Tolerance Test

An oral glucose tolerance test requires an eight-hour fast during which you drink a high-sugar liquid. Two hours later, a blood test is taken.

Correct Diagnosis‍

Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects millions of people around the world, and it’s vitally important to ensure that you have a proper diabetes test done so you can receive the correct treatment.

Your doctor must ensure that the correct testing is completed so you can receive an accurate diagnosis and start feeling better, along with proper medication as needed. Although both diseases include the name diabetes, we know how different they truly are.

Getting it Right!

There’s also psychological and emotional trauma that a person endures when they are misdiagnosed. As hard as they try with diet, exercise and type 2 medication, an individual with type 1 diabetes needs insulin for treatment! Taking type 2 medications can’t cover the type 1 scope and needs. 

No matter your diagnosis, these are manageable diseases when the correct condition is treated.

With the addition of pumps and continuous glucose monitors (CGMs), type 1 diabetes continues to get more manageable, which is a WONDERFUL thing (Yes, I’m type 1!). Even if you still prefer shots, the options for type 1 treatment keep expanding and making it easier to manage.

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