Type 3c diabetes commonly mistaken for type 2 diabetes - study

According to British researchers, there is a third kind of diabetes that has until now been misdiagnosed as type 2 diabetes. It is termed type 3c diabetes mellitus write the researchers in the November issue of the journal Diabetes Care.

The researchers have found that there are 31,789 new cases of diabetes that are being diagnosed over the decade of their study. Of these, 1.5 percent has been diagnosed as type 2 diabetes when they should have been diagnosed as type 3c. A further 1 percent of type 3 diabetics were mistakenly diagnosed as having type 1 diabetes. Of all the patients, 559 cases were due to previous pancreatic trauma. Of these 87.8 percent were misdiagnosed as having type 2 diabetes when they actually had type 3c diabetes. Less than 3 percent were correctly diagnosed as having type 3c diabetes say the researchers. According to their study, type c form of diabetes is different from types 1 and 2.

Types of diabetes

Diabetes is one of the leading causes of death and disease worldwide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, it is the seventh leading cause of death in the US. The condition results from inadequate insulin hormone released from the pancreas. This leads to high blood sugar that can damage several organs including the kidneys, eyes, heart and the nerves. Diabetes affects 30.3 million Americans and of these 90-95 percent have type 2 diabetes says the CDC. Diabetes is still undiagnosed in around 7.2 million people, they add.

  • Type 1 diabetes forms when the body develops antibodies that kill the beta cells of the pancreas that normally produce insulin hormone. This leads to lack of essential hormone insulin in the body. The person thus is unable to handle the blood sugar leading to diabetes and its complications. This is usually detected in childhood and necessitates regular insulin injections.
  • Type 2 diabetes is a form of diabetes where the insulin produced by the body does not meet the needs of the body. This could be due to several factors including obesity and insulin resistance. Here the blood levels of insulin may be normal but the blood sugar may be raised leading to diabetes mellitus and its complications. This type of diabetes is linked to an unhealthy lifestyle and is usually seen in later in life after 30’s or 40’s.
  • According to researchers, type 3c of diabetes is caused after a damage to the pancreas that occurs due to inflammation, or surgery or cancer or diseases such as cystic fibrosis. The pancreas then fails to produce adequate amounts of insulin and also is unable to digest food normally. It is seen in 5 to 10 percent of the Western population.

According to study researcher at the University of Surrey Andrew McGovern, type 3c diabetics are a small proportion of patients but it is more common than previously thought. Clinicians and specialists as well as researchers need to be aware of the rising incidence of this form of diabetes. These patients, he explained, need insulin to handle the blood glucose and also need to be supplemented with enzymes so that they can digest their food normally. Appropriate diagnosis can help appropriate treatment for this condition he said.

The damage may have occurred a decade before the actual problems and symptoms begin to appear he noted. A previous 2008 study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has also identified type 3c diabetes to be an under-diagnosed form of diabetes.

Last Updated: Oct 26, 2017

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