British scientists have made a starting discovery: University of Surrey researchers have identified a new type of diabetes they call Type 3c.
Andrew McGovern, a British clinical researcher, said he and his colleagues have determined this new form of the metabolic disease is caused by damage to the pancreas from inflammation called pancreatitis, tumors of the pancreas, or surgery.
McGovern says that this damage impairs the organ’s ability to produce insulin and is often misdiagnosed as another form of diabetes.
“Only three percent of the 2 million people in our [study] sample were correctly identified as having Type 3C diabetes,” he says. “Small studies in our center have found that most people with Type 3c diabetes need insulin and, unlike other diabetes types, can also benefit from taking digestive enzymes with food.”
Diabetes is a life-long disease that affects the way the body handles glucose, a kind of sugar, in the blood. Approximately 30 million Americans suffer from this disease which is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States.
Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body’s immune system destroys insulin-producing cells of the pancreas and usually begins in childhood and early adulthood. This type affects 1.25 million American children and adults and almost always requires insulin to control.
In Type 2 diabetes, the pancreas cannot keep up with the insulin demands of the body and is often associated with being overweight or obese. This type of diabetes usually starts in middle age or older. Treatments may include diet, exercise, medication, and insulin therapy.
While the news about Type 3c diabetes may appear startling, experts say that the research confirms what some endocrinologists already know.
Dr. Daniel Bessesen, professor of medicine and director of the Endocrinology Fellowship Program at the University of Colorado, tells Newsmax Health Type 3c diabetes is not entirely new to specialists.
“Endocrinologists are well aware of this type of diabetes but since most people with diabetes are cared for by general physicians, it is good to highlight the problem,” he says.
“It’s not only people who have had pancreatic tumors or surgery who are prone to this condition, however. Those most commonly misdiagnosed are people with a history of chronic alcohol abuse who develop pancreatitis from that cause.”
Bessesen explains that people may not seek medical help for the symptoms of pain and nausea of pancreatitis so they never receive a formal diagnosis. On the other hand, a person may develop diabetes years after he or she stops drinking and the physician may not relate the two events.
“The typical patient is thin, has a history of chronic alcoholism, is prone to low glucose levels and responds to very low levels of insulin,” he says. “Usually oral medication such as Metformin does not work. They may also suffer from weight loss from the lack of pancreatic digestive enzymes’ and painful neuropathy from the combination of the toxicity of alcohol and diabetes.”
Dr. Daniel Lorber, director of endocrinology and associate director of the Lang Center for Research and Education at New York Presbyterian Queens tells Newsmax Health the new findings could add to confusion about diabetes.
“Middle-aged people with a history of pancreatic disease may develop an unusual type of diabetes that is neither Type1 or Type 2. They are more likely to need insulin than age and weight matched Type 2 patients, but are not absolutely insulin dependent as in Type 1 diabetes,” he says. “Giving them a label like Type 3C is unnecessary and just adds to the confusion of the diagnosis.”
In a statement the American Diabetes Association issued a statement to Newsmax Health, the advocacy group said the new findings spotlight the need for customized treatments for the condition, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.
“The American Diabetes Association has acknowledged the incidence of specific types of diabetes beyond Type 1, Type 2, and gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), including diabetes caused by diseases of the exocrine pancreas such as cystic fibrosis or pancreatitis,” the ADA said.
“While more than 30 million Americans are living with diabetes, only a small portion experience these additional types of diabetes. The standards of diabetes care call for an individualized plan, developed by a multidisciplinary health care team, tailored to meet each person’s individual needs.”
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