Medical science has recognized a third form of diabetes – and Medical researchers in the U.K. are concerned that it may be more common than doctors realize.

Labeled as “Type 3c,” this form of diabetes results from pancreatic injury, usually caused by inflammation (pancreatitis). This is different from Type 1, a genetic disease in which the pancreas fails to produce insulin, or Type 2, which is due to cellular resistance to insulin and usually caused by obesity and poor diet. Type 3c is generally seen in patients who have undergone surgery, cancer treatments, or suffer from cystic fibrosis – as well as inflammation of the pancreas.

Interestingly, Type 3c diabetes was first identified in 2008. For many years, it was believed that the inability of a patient’s pancreas to produce sufficient insulin (exocrine pancreatic insufficiency) was the result of the disease. However, the original study, which appeared in Diabetes Care, found evidence to indicate that such a condition was a disease all by itself. Furthermore, the researchers found that 8% of diabetics may be suffering from this form of the disease.

This older study was confirmed by the present research. The concern now is that most of these cases have been misdiagnosed – and therefore, not being treated properly. According to Andrew McGovern, author of the report, “Researchers and specialist doctors have recently become concerned that Type 3c diabetes might be much more common than previously thought and that many cases are not being correctly identified.”

Type 3c is an insulin-dependent form of the disease. Once a patient’s pancreas has been damaged, symptoms may not be apparent until a decade later – which is one reason that it has been misdiagnosed.

One significant aspect of this story is the fact that pancreatitis is a side effect of a number of common prescription medicines – specifically, antidepressants, antibiotics, corticosteroids, and incredibly, the very medicines intended to treat diabetes in the first place. Almost a year ago, case studies published in Therapeutics and Case Management and Basic and Clinical Pharmacy found that patients taking SGLT-2 inhibitors such as Invokana developed cases of acute pancreatitis. In one case, it happened less than a week after the patient had started taking Invokana.

Another little-known fact is that anti-psychotics used to treat bipolar disorder, including Abilify and Risperdal, can cause pancreatic inflammation in addition to increasing insulin levels. This is one of the causes of Type 2 diabetes – but the recent clinical evidence raises some questions about whether or not the side effects of common neuroleptics are causing patients to develop Type 3c as well as pancreatic injuries.

Other common prescription drugs with links to pancreatitis include statins used to treat high cholesterol and ACE inhibitors given to patients with hypertension.

K.J. McElrath is a former history and social studies teacher who has long maintained a keen interest in legal and social issues. In addition to writing for The Ring of Fire, he is the author of two published novels: Tamanous Cooley, a darkly comic environmental twist on Dante's Inferno, and The Missionary's Wife, a story of the conflict between human nature and fundamentalist religious dogma. When not engaged in journalistic or literary pursuits, K.J. works as an entertainer and film composer.