Purpose: The purpose of this article is to raise awareness about a frequently misdiagnosed form of diabetes, latent autoimmune diabetes of adulthood (LADA), to describe its clinical and epidemiological characteristics, and to compare them to those of the more common and widely known types of diabetes, type 1 diabetes mellitus (DM) and type 2 DM.
Data sources: A review of the pertinent literature describing the features of LADA from 2000-2007 is summarized.
Conclusions: LADA is a rather common and often underrecognized form of diabetes whose clinical presentation falls somewhere between that of type 1 DM and type 2 DM. From a pathophysiological perspective, it is more closely related to type 1 DM, and some have even used the term type 1.5 diabetes to refer to it; however, it is most often misdiagnosed and treated as type 2 DM.
Implications for practice: Nurse practitioners (NPs) should always consider alternate diagnoses when patients with newly or previously identified adult-onset diabetes mellitus do not fit the traditional stereotype of type 2 DM (i.e., overweight with signs of insulin resistance and a significant family history of diabetes). Statistically, strong consideration must be given to the diagnosis of LADA, especially in those who are of normal weight, show little evidence of insulin resistance, and have hardly any family history of diabetes. Knowing the patient's exact diabetes type can give the NP a much greater understanding of the natural history of the patient's disease, the changes that may occur as the patient ages, and how to optimally manage their diabetes to minimize complications. Likewise, when a patient is correctly diagnosed, they can be empowered to manage their diabetes with the appropriate therapies.