Diabetes Mellitus History – From Ancient To Modern Times

Diabetes mellitus history dates back to ancient Egypt around 2,000 B.C., where its signs and symptoms were first described. "The Greeks later gave the disease its name in the first century A.D.

The word diabetes means siphon, which describes a major symptom of the condition, frequent urination. Mellitus means honey, and depicts one of the early signs of diabetes, sugar in the urine."(1)

The diabetes mellitus history dates back to a time when physicians were unable to treat the disease and developing diabetes mellitus was essentially a death sentence.

This however did not prevent physicians from trying cures, among the things tried were, oil of roses, dates, raw quinces, gruel, jelly of viper's flesh, broken red coral, sweet almonds, and fresh flowers of blind nettles.

Diabetes mellitus history of diagnosis

From the 17th century until nearly the 20th century physicians would take to sampling the urine of their patients to determine if the urine had a sweet taste. Because diabetes causes the spilling over of sugar into the urine, this was considered a viable means of diagnosing the condition.

Diabetes mellitus history of treatment

A connection between diet and diabetes mellitus began to form in the early 20th century when doctors such as Dr. Frederick Allen began prescribing extremely low-calorie diets for his patients with diabetes.

These diets allowed as few as 450 calories per day and while they did prolong the lives of those with the disease the patients were left feeling weak and undernourished.

Then in 1921 diabetes mellitus history hit a turning point. A small group of doctors experimented with a diabetic dog and kept it alive for 70 days by injecting an early form of insulin. This group of doctors then administered a refined insulin extract to a young boy with diabetes. The boy’s condition stabilized and the miracle of insulin began development.

Since the discovery of insulin medical breakthroughs continue to be found.

  • In 1935 two types of diabetes mellitus, which today are named type 1 and type 2, were differentiated.
  • In the 1950s, oral medications (sulfonylureas) were first used for type 2 diabetics.
  • In the 1960s, urine strips were created making testing and monitoring sugar levels much easier for patients.
  • In 1961 the single use syringe was put into use preventing the need to boil needles and glass syringes and leading to less painful injections because needles were smaller and did not become dull.
  • In 1969, the first portable glucose meter was developed.
  • In the late 1970s, the first insulin pump was introduced.
  • In 1979, the hemoglobin A1c test was created allowing for more precise blood sugar level measurements.
  • In 1995, the oral medications, Metformin and Precose, were approved for use in the U.S. by the FDA for patients with type 2 diabetes.

The diabetes mellitus history has been an interesting one and it is far from over. In the 21st century, diabetes researchers will continue to find new advancements in treatment and delivery of medications.

(1) science.jrank.org (2010). Diabetes Mellitus - Incidence Of Diabetes, Types Of Diabetes, Pre-diabetes, Tests For Diabetes, Treatment For Diabetes - History of diabetes. Retrieved from http://science.jrank.org/pages/2044/Diabetes-Mellitus.html

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