Q: What is it?
A: The term double diabetes was first used in 1991 to describe people living with type 1 diabetes who developed insulin resistance. Due to a strong family history of type 2 diabetes, those people with type 1 who are susceptible to double diabetes are more likely to be overweight and rarely achieve their target blood glucose levels, even with higher doses of insulin.
It is likely that had they not been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes they would have been diagnosed with type 2. There are currently no figures for the number of people living with double diabetes as people are classified by type 1, type 2 or gestational. However, diagnoses of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are increasing.
Q: Who is at risk?
A: According to Diabetes NSW, Australia’s largest member-based charity, anyone with type 1 diabetes and a family history of type 2 diabetes, who gains excess weight and struggles to improve their blood glucose levels even when increasing their insulin doses, is at risk of double diabetes.
It can be found in children and young people living with type 1 diabetes who are overweight or obese. Also, obesity and insulin resistance, while not present at diagnosis of type 1 diabetes, can develop over time and make disease management more difficult.
Q: Can it be treated?
A: Metformin, a drug prescribed for the management of insulin resistance, can be used to treat people who are living with double diabetes. However, lifestyle changes are also strongly encouraged. Type 1 diabetes cannot be reversed or cured. The management of double diabetes is to reduce the type 2 diabetes symptoms of insulin resistance by adopting healthier lifestyle patterns and, importantly, reducing weight.