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Patients at risk over failure to recognise important diabetes subtype

Patients at risk over failure to recognise important diabetes subtype

Publication date: Wednesday, 13 December 2017
Contributor(s): Jeremy Bray

Misdiagnosis of diabetes subtypes is putting the health of people at risk to a new UK study. Researchers from the University of Surrey examined the primary care records of more than 2 million people, assessing the frequency of different types of diabetes and the accuracy of diagnosis. Particular focus was given to those who developed Type 3c diabetes, which occurs as a result of pancreatic inflammation, abnormal growth of tissue on the organ or surgically removing part or all of the tissue, which affects the body’s ability to produce insulin.

The study showed that up to 97.3% of people who have previously experienced pancreatic disease are misdiagnosed, typically with Type 2 diabetes, rather than the correct condition Type 3c. Patients suffering from Type 3c diabetes require insulin therapy more urgently than those with Type 2, and delays in delivering the appropriate treatment can have devastating long term effects with nerve, eye and kidney damage all possible consequences.

Researchers were also surprised to find that adults were more likely to develop Type 3c diabetes than Type 1 diabetes. This discovery shows this under-recognised form of diabetes is more common than previously thought and could pose a potential threat to public health. Senior study author Professor Simon de Lusignan said: “Greater awareness of Type 3c diabetes within the medical profession is required immediately to improve management of this disease, which now has a higher incidence than Type 1 diabetes in adults. Our research shows that the majority of people with Type 3c diabetes are being misdiagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, putting both their short and long term health at risk. Diabetes and its complications place a tremendous burden on the NHS and it is important that patients are diagnosed quickly and correctly, helping them get the specific care they need.”

Type 3c diabetes is diabetes that occurs following damage to the pancreas. It is also termed ‘pancreatogenic diabetes’ or ‘diabetes of the exocrine pancreas’. Pancreatic disease is thought to produce a form of diabetes (Type 3c) which has some features similar to Type 1 diabetes (a need for medical insulin relatively soon after diagnosis) and some features similar to Type 2 diabetes (diagnosed in a similar age group and easy to miss unless blood sugar testing is performed).


This study highlights the importance of accurate diagnosis of type 3c diabetes leading to appropriate therapy.

Woodmansey C et al. Incidence, demographics and clinical characteristics of diabetes of the exocrine pancreas (Type 3c): a retrospective cohort study. Diabetes Care 2017;40(11):1486-93.
Topics covered:
Category: Evidence in Practice
Edition: Volume 2 Number 12 PCCJ Online 2017
Contributor(s): Jeremy Bray

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