Senthil Nathan discusses the importance of correct diagnosis of Diabetes for effective management

Diabetes is more of a deficiency, than a disease. While it cannot be cured, it can be managed well. People with Diabetes who are on top of their health, know how to manage Diabetes through medications, diet, and exercise. It is important to understand why some people are unable to manage Diabetes well.

For many people, different types of Diabetes appears similar. They just have to follow their medications, suggested diet/exercise which all seem to be the same. If all the outcomes are the same, does it matter what type of Diabetes they have? Let us first understand the two major types of Diabetes.

  • Type 1 Diabetes (Juvenile Diabetes)

As the name indicates happens at a very early age. The child typically gets diagnosed at age 5-8 (sometimes later). Here pancreas does not produce insulin or produces very little insulin. The best solution is to supply insulin through external injections/pens/pumps.

  • Type 2 Diabetes

This usually happens at a later stage in life (age >40 years) and in this case, the body produces insulin, but it is not accepted by the cells. It's called insulin resistance. In this case, doctors prescribe medications that can aid in the absorption of insulin by the cells. At an advanced stage, people with Type 2 Diabetes require insulin.

In addition to these two, there are other types like LADA (Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults). In layman's terms, it is type-1 but onset happens later in life. Again treatment is external insulin. As you can see, Diabetes types can be all over the place.

I was diagnosed with Diabetes at the age of 23. I was ruled out as not a type 1, as I had crossed juvenile diabetes age. So by default, I was classified as Type-2 and was given medication to make insulin absorption better. But in reality, I was a LADA. My body was losing its ability to produce insulin at a slower rate. So let us say, I needed 100 per cent insulin. I was producing only 50 per cent.

Type 2 medications which I was prescribed helped to better absorb that 50 per cent insulin. So it created an illusion that the medications were working. But it was not enough to get my blood glucose levels down. I was rapidly losing weight. We then went to another specialist who correctly diagnosed me as LADA and immediately switched me to Insulin. My blood glucose control improved from there.

I lost some precious years when I should have been on insulin. We have seen someone in their 60s getting diagnosed with Type-1 and someone in their teens, diagnosed with Type-2. So irrespective of what age you are diagnosed with Diabetes, please work with your doctor to identify the type. People with Diabetes not producing insulin and those who produce insulin, but have resistance to absorbing it, need different approaches to treatment. There are many tests to understand the type of Diabetes like GAD antibodies/C-peptide. You should work with your doctor and understand which ones to take. They might be costly. But I can assure you, they help in the longer term.

Wishing everyone a healthy and well-managed journey with Diabetes

Senthil Nathan has been a diabetic for the last 15+ years. He works at IBM as a Senior Product Manager. He is very vocal about issues related to Diabetes and has been an advocate for helping people understand Diabetes management better. He is a part of a Facebook group called "Diabetes Support Network - India" which is run by Blue Circle Diabetes Foundation which conducts regular in-person in our own cities and virtual meetings and share our knowledge. Groups like these will help you identify someone similar to you in age, taste, and location who can help, whom you can help by sharing tricks and tips on diets/exercise. If you join the group reading this article, please do say hello.

Diabetes Health Magazine