misdiagnosed, diabetes

Misdiagnosed! Some Black Patients Diagnosed With Type 2 Diabetes May Actually Have A Different Kind Of Diabetes

African Americans are more often misdiagnosed than other minority groups, according one doctor who researches atypical forms of diabetes.

Some Black women believe they have been misdiagnosed for diabetes because of their race. Each woman discovered they had latent autoimmune diabetes of adults (LADA), a form of diabetes often misdiagnosed as Type 2 diabetes, more commonly in African Americans.

A misdiagnosis could be bad news for Black patients because it could cause them to be denied medicines, technologies, and tests to manage their blood sugar. Dr. Jason Gaglia, an endocrinologist at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, told NBC News that nearly 10% of Type 2 diagnoses might actually be LADA.

Mila Clarke, one of Black women with LADA, told Kaiser Family Foundation Health News she believes race played a role in her misdiagnosis.

The now 34-year-old Houston resident was diagnosed with Type 2 when she was 26. It was more than four years before she saw an endocrinologist who told her what she was experiencing sounded like “a classic case of LADA.”

Clarke started a blog in 2016, when she was misdiagnosed, called “Hangry Woman,” sharing nutrition and tips for people living with diabetes. She shared that getting tested for the condition wasn’t easy and that when she learned about continuous glucose monitors that could be used to track her blood sugar, her doctor refused. The unnamed doctor said according to Clarke, “It’s going to be too much information, too much data for you.”

On top of that, the then-blogger voiced that it’s “really hard to vocalize your needs” without coming off as “aggressive” or “disrespectful” as an African American woman.

Professor Phyllisa Deroze also knows the struggle of getting antibodies tests. She was denied by two doctors, according to NBC News. “I just felt unseen,” she said. It was not until she had an attack of diabetic ketoacidosis that she finally got tested.

When she was misdiagnosed, Deroze couldn’t tell if she had diabetes Type 1 or Type 2 from looking at images in a pamphlet she received during a visit to a North Carolina emergency department.

Eight years later, Deroze found out she had LADA. And it was the first time the educator was told diabetes wasn’t her fault, the news outlet noted. By the time a doctor prescribed her insulin and eventually an insulin pump, it had already been a long time coming.

Some doctors think biases about weight, age, and, specifically, race are the reasons for some misdiagnoses. Dr. Rochelle Naylor, a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of Chicago, said to NBC News: “[As] doctors, like any other person walking this planet, we all have implicit biases that impact patient care.” It’s no surprise that African American patients are more often misdiagnosed than other minority groups, according to the doctor who researches atypical forms of diabetes.

A patient’s family history might also lead doctors to misdiagnose Black patients with Type 2 diabetes.

Moreover, LADA progresses slowly and “unmasks itself over time,” according to Dr. Gaglia. This means patients don’t get insulin right away, like those with Type 1 diabetes. But insulin is crucial for survival.

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