Metabolic Health

Type 3 Diabetes - Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Reviewed by

Shifa Fathima

Type 3 Diabetes

Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are among the most widely known chronic diseases. Recently, a new type of diabetes has been discovered. It is known as Type 3 diabetes. It is a long-term disorder caused by insulin resistance in the brain. Though the term “type 3 diabetes” has not yet been entirely accepted in the medical domain, rigorous research is being conducted to understand it better. 

What is type 3 diabetes?

Insulin, the hormone known to control blood sugar levels, also regulates cognitive functions in the brain. The failure of brain cells to respond to insulin, or insulin resistance, causes brain degeneration, which results in progressive dementia, leading to Alzheimer’s disease. Type 3 diabetes is primarily a chronic, degenerative condition of the brain caused by defects in insulin signalling.

Type 3 diabetes can be called a progression of type 2 diabetes towards Alzheimer’s Disease. It is a form of diabetes affecting the brain. The neurons become glucose deficient, leading to loss of memory, concentration, and reasoning.

The link between diabetes and Alzheimer’s

The relationship between Alzheimer’s and diabetes has initiated a great deal of research. To understand type 3 diabetes, one must know why the term originated. The terminology ‘type 3 diabetes’ arose because Alzheimer’s is associated with the brain, and its biochemical attributes overlap with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Research has proved that individuals suffering from obesity and type 2 diabetes are at higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

Lack of insulin due to diabetes leads to the inability of the body to break down sugar, resulting in the unhealthy accumulation of sugar in the blood. In Alzheimer’s disease, a similar thing occurs, but the effect of insulin deficiency is restricted to the brain. Increased blood sugar levels cause inflammation of brain tissue, leading to vascular dementia and chemical imbalance. Type 3 diabetes causes improper regulation of blood sugar in the brain, triggering a decline in cognitive abilities.

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Causes for Type 3 Diabetes

  • Type 2 diabetes 
  • Insulin resistance
  • Damage and inflammation of blood vessels in the brain
  • Oxidative stress
  • Abnormal levels of beta-amyloid protein (essential for neural growth and repair) in the brain

Risk Factors for Type 3 Diabetes

Type 3 diabetes is more prevalent in individuals having:

  • A family history of diabetes
  • High birth weight and obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • A sedentary lifestyle
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

Symptoms of Type 3 Diabetes

The symptoms are very similar to those of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. Type 3 diabetes causes:

  • A decline in cognitive functions, such as analysis and planning.
  • Trouble in performing well-acquainted tasks.
  • Disorientation regarding time and place.
  • Frequent misplacing of things.
  • Difficulty in following instructions or conversations.
  • Repeating the same questions.
  • Deterioration in judgement and balance.
  • Social aloofness and mood swings.

Diagnosis of Type 3 Diabetes

As type 3 diabetes is closely associated with Alzheimer’s disease, the following may be advised for its diagnosis:

  • A thorough investigation of medical history.
  • Neurological examination to check the functioning of the nervous system.
  • Brain imaging tests, such as CT scan and MRI scan.
  • Spinal tap (to test cerebrospinal fluid).
  • Neuropsychological testing to determine the brain’s efficiency.
  • Regular physical examination.
  • Haemoglobin and glucose tests.
  • Analysis of day-to-day function and behaviour.

Treatment for Type 3 Diabetes

The correct approach to treat type 3 diabetes is by addressing the issues related to Alzheimer’s Disease and Type 2 diabetes:

  • Drugs like metformin improve the body’s reaction to insulin and lower blood sugar levels.
  • Cholinesterase inhibitors regulate acetylcholine levels in the brain. This helps in slowing down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Medications and antidepressants to reduce memory loss and behavioural changes help in managing type 3 diabetes.
  • Use of replacement insulin is also recommended.
  • Exercise and diet are important factors in treatment.
  • Antipsychotic medication may be necessary to treat advanced forms of dementia induced by type 3 diabetes.

Outlook for Type 3 Diabetes

Type 3 diabetes is a chronic condition. However, taking care of three significant factors go a long way in deciding its outlook or prognosis:

  • Early diagnosis: The earlier it is diagnosed and treated, the better are the prospects of managing it.
  • Effective management: Regular exercise, strict diet, and timely medication increase life expectancy by slowing down the advancement of this condition.
  • Intensity of the condition: Depending on the stage of dementia and decline in cognitive functions, palliative care must be provided.

Preventing Type 3 Diabetes

The good news is that, with a bit of effort and awareness, prevention of this condition is possible. The relationship between Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes poses a challenge in the disease’s progression, but it can be averted by following certain lifestyle changes:

  • Increasing physical activity and exercising regularly.
  • Steady monitoring of blood sugar levels.
  • Maintaining body weight.
  • Avoiding processed foods and managing cholesterol levels.
  • Consuming a high-protein, high-fibre, and low-fat diet.
  • Ensuring psychological well-being.
  • Quitting smoking.
  • Sleeping on time to rule out sleep apnea and being well-rested.
  • Performing activities to stimulate cognitive functions.

Bottomline

Type 3 diabetes should not be confused with type 3c diabetes mellitus. The latter is a form of pancreatogenic diabetes. Type 3 diabetes, on the other hand, is confined to insulin resistance in the brain. A lot of research is still ongoing to understand what is type 3 diabetes. But, sufficient studies have proved that there is indeed a relationship between low insulin levels and decline in cognitive functions. Maintaining healthy precautions and constant monitoring of symptoms and risk factors go a long way in managing this condition. 

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