The health of people with diabetes is being put at risk
due to the failure of doctors to recognise which type of diabetes
they have, a new study in the journal Diabetes
Most people are familiar with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Recently, though, a new type of diabetes has been identified: type
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
needs 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 old
age, although the age of onset is decreasing.
Type 3c diabetes is caused by damage to the
pancreas from inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), tumours
of the pancreas, or pancreatic surgery. This type of damage to the
pancreas not only impairs the organ's ability to produce insulin
but also to produce the proteins needed to digest food (digestive
enzymes) and other hormones.
In the first ever study of its kind,
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
Type 3c diabetes 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
The researchers discovered that up to 97.3 per cent of people
who have previously experienced pancreatic disease are
misdiagnosed, typically with type 2 diabetes, rather than the
correct condition type 3c.
Such a misdiagnosis impacts on the treatment offered to
patients, with those suffering from type 3c diabetes requiring
insulin therapy more urgently than those with type 2 diabetes.
Delays in delivering the appropriate treatment can have
devastating long term effects for patients with type 3c diabetes
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.
In their sample, 205 more people were newly diagnosed with type
3c diabetes than with type 1.
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 author of the report,
Professor Simon de Lusignan from the University of Surrey,
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
"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.
"This builds on our previous work that suggests that failure to
flag the right diagnosis is associated with lower quality
Latest figures from Public Health England indicate that 3.8
million people in England aged over 16 have diabetes, around 9% of
the adult population, with an estimated £14 billion pounds
being spent a year on treating the illness and its