While many people have heard of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, you may not be aware that researchers have identified a third type of diabetes – type 3c.

Diabetes type 3 is not completely understood. Diagnosis and treatments remain in the early stages. Furthermore, additional studies are needed to help better treat and fully understand type 3 diabetes – as well as its possible link to Alzheimer’s and dementia.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease in which the body doesn’t utilize and metabolize sugar properly. Diabetes can strike anyone, from any walk of life. More than 29 million Americans are living with diabetes.

  • Type 1 diabetes is where the body’s immune system destroys the insulin producing cells of the pancreas. It usually starts in childhood or early adulthood, and almost always requires insulin treatment.
  • Type 2 diabetes occurs when the pancreas can’t keep up with the insulin demand of the body. It is often associated with being overweight or obese, and usually starts in middle or older age, although the age of onset is decreasing.
  • Type 3c diabetes mellitus (T3cDM) is a form of secondary diabetes caused by damage to the pancreas from inflammation (pancreatitis), cystic fibrosis, tumors, pancreatic cancer, or pancreatic surgery. The damage to the pancreas impairs the organ’s ability to produce insulin, as well as the proteins needed to digest food and other hormones. Type 3c diabetes may have features that overlap with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

New discoveries about type 3 diabetes

In a study of 2 million people by researchers with the University of Surrey, it was discovered that in adults, type 3c diabetes was more common than type 1 diabetes. They found that 1 percent of new cases of diabetes in adults were type 1, compared to 1.6 for type 3c.

People with type 3c diabetes were twice as likely to have poor blood sugar control than those with type 2 diabetes.

Most people with type 3c diabetes studied needed insulin. However, the proportion of people with disease of the pancreas who go on to develop diabetes is still unclear… it does not happen in all cases. Researchers say there may be a long delay before the onset of diabetes, perhaps more than a decade later. The risk for diabetes increases with worsening pancreatic damage.

Proper identification and proper treatment

Correctly identifying the type of diabetes is important as it helps with the selection of the appropriate treatment. Talk to the experts at the Knoxville Hospital & Clinics Diabetes Center, where we are empowering patients to control their diabetes.

Kari Paige, RD, LD
Nutrition Services Director
Clinical Dietitian & Diabetes Educator
Knoxville Hospital & Clinics
Phone: (641) 842-1519
Email: kpaige@knoxvillehospital.org


Contributing sources:  Andrew McGovern, clinical researcher at the University of Surrey, U.K., who analyzed over 2 million people in England from records received from the Royal College of General Practitioners Research and Surveillance Database; The Conversation, an academic journal; and Newsweek, Oct. 25, 2017, edition; Pancreatogenic (Type 3c) Diabetes, Lalitha Gudipathy and Michael R. Rickels, Institute for Diabetes, Obesity & Metabolism, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA.

The information on this blog is provided for general information purposes and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, care, treatment or evaluation; nor should it be used in diagnosing a health condition. You are encouraged to consult your health care provider if you or a family member has or suspect you have a medical problem.