Most people have heard of type 1 and 2 diabetes, but a rarely discussed third subtype of the metabolic disorder is not being correctly diagnosed, according to a new study published in the journal Diabetes Care. This misdiagnosis can have a profoundly negative effect on patient health, as their prescribed treatment may be ineffective at managing type 3c diabetes.
Type 3c diabetes occurs when the insulin producing-cells of the pancreas are unable to perform their function as a result of inflammation, the presence of growths on the pancreas or partial or complete removal of the organ. In order to determine how often, and how accurately, individuals are diagnosed with diabetes, researchers at the University of Surrey studied medical record from over 2 million patients.
The researchers found that those patients with a history of pancreatic disease were misdiagnosed with type 2 diabetes up to 97 percent of the time, when type 3c diabetes was the more likely cause of their symptoms. Since patients diagnosed with type 2 diabetes may not require insulin therapy in early stages of the disease, these misdiagnosed patients with type 3c diabetes could be receiving inappropriate, and ineffective treatment for the condition.
As with any condition, delaying proper treatment can have a negative impact on health. If left untreated, patients with type 3c diabetes could suffer eye, nerve and kidney damage as a result.
The researchers also found that type 3c diabetes may be more commonly developed in adults, compared to type 1 diabetes. Their analysis found that 205 more patients were diagnosed with this third subtype compared to type 1 diabetes, highlighting that the incidence of this condition has been underestimated in the past.
“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,” said senior study author Professor Simon de Lusignan from the University of Surrey. “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.”
It’s estimated that around 3.8 million British individuals 16 years and older have been diagnosed with some form of diabetes. The National Health Service (NHS) spends £14 billion each year helping individuals manage the condition, and treating associated complications.
“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,” said de Lusignan. “This builds on our previous work that suggests that failure to flag the right diagnosis is associated with lower quality care.”