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What is Type 3c diabetes?

You may have heard of the more common types of diabetes like type 1, type 2 and gestational. But there are actually many other types of diabetes that aren't as well known. 

Type 3c diabetes develops because of damage to the pancreas, which can happen for a few different reasons. And although it’s different to other types, you can get a wrong diagnosis of type 2 because type 3c isn’t well known. 

Not getting the right diagnosis can be really difficult to deal with emotionally. You might feel angry at not getting the right treatment or you could just get worn out by the whole process. So make sure you find someone to talk to. Our forum has a lot of threads about type 3c from people who've experienced similar things to you. Being part of a community like that can help get you through difficult times. 

You can also speak to our helpline to get support. Call 0345 123 2399 or use the live chat. 

What is type 3 diabetes?

Type 3 diabetes is not a recognised medical condition. It is sometimes referred to when someone who has been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes goes on to develop Alzheimer’s. We’re currently funding a research project that looks into the link between Alzheimer’s and type 2 diabetes. This should provide more insight into why people with type 2 diabetes are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s.

What causes type 3c diabetes?

Type 3c can happen when the pancreas stops producing enough insulin for the body. And we all need insulin to live. It allows the glucose (or sugar) in our blood to enter our cells and fuel our bodies. If you have type 3c diabetes your pancreas will also stop producing the enzyme that you need to digest food. 

You can only get type 3c diabetes because of an illness or condition that affects the pancreas. 

Conditions related to type 3c

Type 3c is linked to many other conditions, all of which are to do with the pancreas, such as:

You can also develop type 3c if you have your pancreas removed because of any other damage. 

Your doctor should be aware of your pancreatic issues if they’re testing you for diabetes. But make sure you mention it to them so that they know that you're at risk for type 3c. 

Organisations such as Pancreatic Cancer UK, Haemochromatosis UK and Cystic Fibrosis Trust can offer you support for some of the conditions related to type 3c.


Symptoms of type 3c diabetes

If you have type 3c then your pancreas may not be able to give you what you need to digest your food. This is pancreatic exocrine insufficiency (PEI) and means that your pancreas isn’t working properly. 

The signs to look out for can include:

  • losing weight without trying to
  • stomach pain
  • feeling more tired than usual
  • frequently passing wind
  • diarrhoea
  • fatty or oily stools
  • hypoglycaemia, also called low blood sugar. 

There are also common signs and symptoms of diabetes that you might want to look out for as well.  

If notice any of these symptoms or have any concerns then you should speak to your doctor.

Type 3c diagnosis

There is a lack of awareness for type 3c which might mean you get a wrong diagnosis. You’ll see stories on our forum of people who have had similar experiences.  

But remember, we know that type 3c is linked to problems with the pancreas. So, you can ask your doctor to check for type 3c if you’ve had pancreatic problems and explain your reasons why.

If you have a type 3c diagnosis, you should be seen by a healthcare team that knows what to do. If you have questions about the care you’re getting then call us on 0345 123 2399 to find out what steps you can take. 

Managing type 3c diabetes

Making sure you’re managing your type 3c diabetes in the right way can be a challenge. The current guidelines say you should treat type 3c with metformin or insulin

This is why managing type 3c can be a difficult thing to do. There isn’t a one-size fits all treatment because it really comes down to how much damage your pancreas has. And you may benefit from more regular reviews by your healthcare team.

You’re likely to start on metformin to help manage your blood sugar levels. Metformin works by helping the insulin you produce to work better. This should then reduce your blood sugar levels. 

But if this isn’t enough to manage your blood sugar and you’re losing weight then you’ll move on to insulin. Many people with type 3c diabetes require insulin at an earlier stage compared to people with type 2 diabetes to help manage their blood sugar levels. But if metformin is working for you then you should have a check every six months to see if you need to move on to insulin with your healthcare team. 

Other treatments

It’s likely that your healthcare team will also discuss with you any diet and lifestyle change you might need to make. This might include treatment to help with digesting food.

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