Monday, December 6, 2010

Is There a Pancreas Antibody Blood Test for Type 1 Diabetes?

A reader tells us, "Nothing I've done to control my type 2 diabetes has worked. I'm concerned I might really have type 1 and need insulin right away. Is there a pancreas antibody blood test for type 1 diabetes?"

Actually, there are several. In type 1 diabetes in children and young adults, the immune system attacks the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas with as many as five different kinds of antibodies, causing quick destruction of its ability to make insulin. In latent autoimmune diabetes of adulthood, or LADA, the immune system destroys the ability of the pancreas to make insulin much more slowly. And in many cases of type 2 diabetes, the immune system works over a period of decades to diminish the ability of the beta cells to keep blood sugar levels in control.

There are blood tests for ICA, IA2, GAD25, and IAA antibodies. If you have these antibodies but your blood sugar levels are not yet out of control, or if you have had the symptoms of full-blown diabetes only for a short time, then you are in luck. Using insulin injections to control your blood sugar levels for a few months to a year may give your pancreas a chance to rest and recuperate from the assault from your immune system may enable you to stop taking insulin later. In fact, sometimes type 1 diabetes is completely reversed when it is caught in time.

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