Levetan’s assessment about the importance of testing for antibodies.
“Many Type 1’s go into a ‘honeymoon’ phase [a phase during which their pancreas once again becomes able to secrete insulin] after diagnosis, so it can seem like oral medications are working initially,” he says.
At that office visit, her doctor ordered lab tests, discovered that her blood glucose was high, and prescribed oral medicine for Type 2 diabetes.
The incidence of diabetes has increased so greatly around the world in the past 25 years that health organizations and media outlets alike often refer to the “diabetes epidemic.” Most of the new cases of diabetes are Type 2 diabetes, which accounts for 90% to 95% of all diabetes cases.
The world is concurrently experiencing an “obesity epidemic,” and while it is not universally accepted that overweight and obesity cause Type 2 diabetes, it is generally accepted that overweight and obesity are environmental risk factors for developing Type 2 diabetes.
For years, distinguishing between the various types of diabetes was pretty straightforward: “Juvenile diabetes,” an autoimmune disease, was diagnosed primarily in children and teenagers when their own body’s immune system destroyed the insulin-producing (beta) cells in their pancreas.
“Adult-onset diabetes” occurred in adults and was generally associated with insulin resistance and often with overweight.
For Douglas Deatrick, a 47-year-old who has been living with Type 1 diabetes since age 9, a good endocrinologist can be hard to find, but a good primary-care doctor or internist is even harder.
According to Deatrick, “There has not been one [family doctor] who is willing to just take care of the regular stuff, and they all think they can manage my diabetes for me. ’ When they don’t know it, I just leave.” Some adults with Type 1 diabetes deal with this by using a primary-care doctor mainly to get referrals to an endocrinologist or by seeking out an endocrinologist on their own for their diabetes care.
And adults with Type 1 diabetes tend to be less visible members of that minority, with much of the research and media attention focused on children with Type 1.
Many adults with Type 1 diabetes have found that this minority status can present some medical challenges, as well as social and emotional challenges.
If the adult is overweight, the chances may be even higher that the doctor will diagnose Type 2 diabetes.
For Phyllis Kornluth, a former merchandising director for a Fortune 500 company, diagnosis with Type 1 diabetes came at age 59, when she went to see her doctor for flu-like symptoms.
As these women discovered, it can take patient advocacy to receive a correct diagnosis and the right treatment.