Diabetes Throughout History

Many people are under this assumption that diabetes is a fairly new development, perhaps brought on by poor diets and sedentary lifestyles. These people couldn’t be more wrong.

Diabetes has been around since the beginning of time. ALL types of diabetes have been around since the dawn of time.

In the 6th century there lived an Indian healer by the name of Sushruta. This healer used the word Madhumeha (sweet urine) for diabetes. The Indians tested a person for diabetes by checking to see if ants were drawn to their urine. If the ants came to the urine then that meant there was a lot of sugar (glucose) in it and that the person was diabetic.

The word diabetes was first used around this same time. The word is derived from the Greek word for “siphon” or “to pass through” because one of the major symptoms of diabetes is frequent urination and the very sweet taste of the urine as the body spills excess glucose through the urine.

In these ancient times it was generally believed that this disease caused the body to literally melt into sugar water.

Diabetes was a death sentence, a very painful and agonizing sickness that absolutely lead to death. There was absolutely nothing that could be done to stop the death sentence of this disease. There was very little study, advancement in knowledge, or useful treatments for diabetes until the early 1900’s.


Then came along every diabetic’s hero; a Canadian by the name of Dr. Frederick Banting. This was in 1921, and this was the man who discovered insulin and first used it to save a young diabetic boy from dying. With Dr. Banting and his team’s discovery, diabetes was no longer an absolute death sentence. Insulin quickly became mass produced.

From this point forward studies and advancements in technology and medical understanding and nutrition have greatly improved care, quality of life, and life expectancy in diabetics.

In the early 1950’s glucose testing became available to diabetics to do at home. The first glucose home testing was done using tablets dissolved in urine. Around this time diabetes is much better understood and type 1 (insulin dependent) and type 2 (non-insulin dependent) are designated. Pills to help treat type 2 diabetes are put on the market.

In the early 1960’s glucagon is put on the market to treat severe hypoglycemia (very low blood sugar). Around this time home blood glucose testing becomes a thing. This was done using color coded strips and a blood sample.

In 1970 the first glucose meter is put on the market. A few years later came the first insulin pump. And not long after that came standard A1c testing.

In 1980 a new way of using insulin therapy improve blood sugar control. Basal-bolus therapy becomes a standard practice.

Around 1990 it was confirmed that type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease.

From here on out there have been many wonderful improvements and discoveries regarding diabetes, control, and treatments.

But there still is no cure.


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