Immune-mediated (auto-immune) Type 1 diabetes mellitus is not a homogenous entity, but nonetheless has distinctive characteristics. In children, it may present with classical insulin deficiency and ketoacidosis at disease onset, whereas autoimmune diabetes in adults may not always be insulin dependent. Indeed, as the adult-onset form of autoimmune diabetes may resemble Type 2 diabetes, it is imperative to test for diabetes-associated autoantibodies to establish the correct diagnosis. The therapeutic response can be predicted by measuring the levels of autoantibodies to various islet cell autoantigens, such as islet cell antibodies (ICA), glutamate decarboxylase 65 (GAD65), insulin, tyrosine phosphatase (IA-2) and IA-2β, and zinc transporter 8 (ZnT8) and evaluating β-cell function. A high risk of progression to insulin dependency is associated with particular genetic constellations, such as human leukocyte antigen risk alleles, young age at onset, the presence of multiple autoantibodies, including high titres of anti-GAD antibodies; such patients should be offered early insulin replacement therapy, as they respond poorly to diet and oral hypoglycaemic drug therapy. Hence, considering the broad spectrum of phenotypes seen in adult-onset diabetes, treatment targets can only be reached by identification of immune-mediated cases, as their management differs from those with classical Type 2 diabetes.
© 2012 The Authors. Diabetic Medicine © 2012 Diabetes UK.