What is type 3 diabetes

Type 3 diabetes

Type 3 diabetes starts with an organ in the body called the pancreas. The pancreas is only about 6 inches long but its functions are vital for survival. The pancreas has two primary functions. Its first role is to release enzymes into the gastrointestinal tract to help with digestion. Its second role is to release insulin.  Using insulin, the cells can receive glucose where it can be used as energy or stored for later in the liver, muscles and kidneys.

Interestingly, 99% of the pancreas function revolves around releasing enzymes to help with digestion. Meaning insulin is a very small part of its role.

So a 6 inch organ, of which only 1% of its function is dedicated to controlling blood glucose levels, is the reason behind type 1 diabetes.

What is type 3 diabetes

Type 3 diabetes is an induced form of diabetes usually following pancreatitis or pancreatic cancer. If surgery is needed to correct this, less or no insulin may be produced as a result.  

Type 3 diabetes can be difficult to manage. This is because your pancreas may also produce less or no enzymes to break down food.

Your pancreas also has an opposing hormone to insulin called glucagon. Glucagon tells the body to release more glucose to prevent glucose levels dropping too low. Glucagon levels can also be reduced when undergoing pancreatic surgery.

This can leave those suffering with type 3 diabetes prone to swings in the their blood glucose levels from high to low with no opposing hormones being released to combat the swing.

What are the symptoms of type 3 diabetes?

With type 3 diabetes you can still be prone to the symptoms of diabetes if your blood glucose are high. Symptoms include include weight loss, thirst, dry mouth, blurred vision, genital itching, tiredness and fatigue amongst others. You are unlikely to experience such symptoms without knowing the cause. This is because your team will inform you of the symptoms and you will regularly test your glucose levels.

How is type 3 diabetes managed?

Due to the fact your body produces less or no insulin, will need to take insulin lifelong. Assuming your blood glucose levels are high following surgery or your bout of pancreatic insufficiency.

Usually, you will take one long acting insulin. This provides coverage for your body for around 24 hours and essentially works in the background. We call this your background insulin.

You will may also take a rapid acting insulin with meals. This matches blood sugar spikes when you eat and prevents sugar levels rising too much after meals. We call this your rapid or fast acting insulin. We call this a basal bolus insulin regime. I have previously blogged about this here. 

If needing insulin following surgery you will likely be treated the same as someone with type 1 diabetes. However, this isn’t always the case. Some patients can get way with one background insulin and others require no insulin. Each patient is seen on an individual basis.

You may also be given pancreatic enzymes to take with meals and snacks. These will help your body absorb food. Your team will usually device your need for enzymes. Signs of needing enzymes include weight loss, diarrhoea, oily stools which float, coloured stools, pain in the abdomen, bloating and belching, which can be foul smelling.

For a better understanding of diabetes here is a video:

Your onset is because part of or all of your pancreas was removed. However, the symptoms and medical management are the same as type 1 or 2 on insulin. Here’s a video which explains type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Remember, type 3 diabetes induces a similar presentation as type 1 diabetes as opposed to type 2.


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