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Type 1.5 Diabetes: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment


Understanding Type 1.5 diabetes is crucial for effective management and treatment. This form of diabetes, also known as Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults (LADA), presents characteristics of both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Here’s a comprehensive guide to the causes, symptoms, and treatments for Type 1.5 diabetes.

What is Type 1.5 Diabetes?

Type 1.5 diabetes, or diabetes 1.5, occurs primarily in adults and develops gradually like Type 2 but is, in essence, an autoimmune disease similar to Type 1 diabetes. It affects about 10% of the diabetic population, often leading to a faster decline in pancreatic beta-cell function compared to Type 2 diabetes. Unlike Type 2, it cannot be reversed with lifestyle changes alone.

Symptoms of Type 1.5 Diabetes

The onset of Type 1.5 diabetes symptoms can be subtle and easily mistaken for Type 2 diabetes. Common signs include:

  • Frequent thirst and increased urination, especially at night.
  • Unexplained weight loss.

Blurred vision and tingling in extremities.

  • If not managed, these symptoms can lead to severe complications like diabetic ketoacidosis, where the body starts burning fats and releasing harmful ketones.

Causes of Type 1.5 Diabetes

Type 1.5 diabetes, also known as Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults (LADA), is a complex condition with multiple contributing factors. Understanding these causes is essential for early detection and effective management. Here’s a detailed look into the multifaceted causes of Type 1.5 diabetes:

  • Autoimmune Response: The primary factor in Type 1.5 diabetes is an autoimmune reaction where the body’s immune system mistakenly targets and destroys the pancreatic beta cells that produce insulin. This autoimmune attack significantly decreases the body’s ability to produce insulin, a key hormone for controlling blood sugar levels.
  • Genetic Predisposition: Genetics play a crucial role in developing Type 1.5 diabetes. Individuals with a family history of autoimmune diseases, such as Type 1 diabetes or thyroid disorders, are at a higher risk. Specific genes related to immune function are also thought to contribute to the susceptibility of developing LADA.
  • Environmental Factors: While less understood, environmental factors are believed to trigger the autoimmune response in genetically predisposed individuals. These can include viral infections, dietary components, and other yet unidentified environmental agents.
  • Insulin Resistance: In some cases, individuals with Type 1.5 diabetes may also exhibit insulin resistance, a hallmark of Type 2 diabetes. This condition occurs when the body does not use insulin effectively, often due to obesity, lack of physical activity, or a diet high in processed foods and sugars. The presence of insulin resistance can complicate the diagnosis and management of Type 1.5 diabetes.
  • Age of Onset: Unlike Type 1 diabetes, which commonly appears in children and young adults, Type 1.5 diabetes typically develops in adulthood, usually after the age of 30. This later onset can lead to initial misdiagnosis as Type 2 diabetes, particularly in patients who do not exhibit typical risk factors for Type 2 diabetes, such as obesity.

Diagnosing Type 1.5 Diabetes

Correctly diagnosing diabetes type 1.5 is crucial as it is often misidentified as Type 2 diabetes. Diagnosis typically involves:

  • Fasting plasma glucose and oral glucose tolerance tests.
  • Random plasma glucose tests.
  • Detection of specific autoantibodies that indicate an autoimmune response.

Treatment of Type 1.5 Diabetes

Treating Type 1.5 diabetes requires a nuanced approach due to its unique characteristics that blend elements of both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Here’s a more detailed look into the comprehensive treatment strategies for Type 1.5 diabetes:

  • Early Treatment Approaches: Initially, treatment may include medications typically prescribed for Type 2 diabetes, such as metformin, which helps improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood glucose levels. However, these are generally only effective in the early stages of the disease, before significant beta-cell loss occurs.
  • Progression to Insulin Therapy: As Type 1.5 diabetes progresses and the body’s ability to produce insulin continues to decline, the introduction of insulin therapy becomes inevitable. Insulin therapy is critical to manage blood glucose levels effectively as oral medications become insufficient.
  • Tailored Insulin Regimens: Choosing the right insulin regimen is crucial. Patients might need a combination of long-acting (basal) insulin to provide a steady amount of insulin throughout the day and night, and rapid-acting (bolus) insulin to control spikes in blood glucose levels after meals. The types and dosages of insulin are highly individualized based on daily blood glucose patterns, lifestyle, diet, and other health factors.
  • Regular Monitoring and Adjustment: Frequent monitoring of blood glucose levels is essential for people with Type 1.5 diabetes. Continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) or regular blood glucose testing can help track the effectiveness of the treatment regimen and identify when adjustments are needed.
  • Diet and Lifestyle Modifications: Although lifestyle changes alone cannot reverse Type 1.5 diabetes, they are vital in managing the condition. A diet low in processed foods and sugars, regular physical activity, and maintaining a healthy weight can help improve insulin sensitivity and overall health.
  • Education and Self-Management: Educating patients on the management of Type 1.5 diabetes, including how to administer insulin, monitor glucose levels, and recognize the signs of both hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia, is essential. Self-management education helps patients make informed decisions about their health and treatment.
  • Regular Healthcare Consultations: Regular check-ups with healthcare providers specializing in diabetes care are important to ensure that the treatment plan remains effective as the disease progresses. These check-ups can also help prevent or manage the complications associated with diabetes, such as cardiovascular disease, neuropathy, and kidney damage.
  • Psychological Support: Coping with a chronic condition like Type 1.5 diabetes can be challenging. Psychological support from counsellors, support groups, or mental health professionals can be beneficial in managing the emotional and psychological impacts of the disease.

Outlook and Management

The prognosis for individuals with Type 1.5 diabetes can be similar to those with other diabetes types, provided blood sugar is well-controlled. Management focuses on maintaining blood sugar levels to prevent complications such as cardiovascular issues and neuropathy. Early and accurate diagnosis, followed by appropriate treatment, is key to preserving pancreatic function and managing symptoms.

Prevention Strategies

Preventing Type 1.5 diabetes is not currently possible due to its autoimmune and genetic basis. The best approach is early detection and management to mitigate complications.

In conclusion, understanding and identifying the unique aspects of Type 1.5 diabetes is critical for effective management. Awareness and education on the distinct nature of this diabetes form can lead to better therapeutic outcomes and improve the quality of life for those affected.


In conclusion, managing Type 1.5 diabetes effectively demands a comprehensive understanding of its causes, symptoms, and progressive treatment strategies. Regular monitoring, appropriate insulin therapy, and lifestyle adjustments are essential for controlling this condition. For those navigating the complexities of Type 1.5 diabetes, guidance from Diabetes Specialists like Dr. Moxit Shah can be invaluable. Dr. Shah’s expertise in diabetes management ensures that patients receive tailored and effective treatment plans, enhancing their ability to manage diabetes 1.5 successfully and maintain overall health.