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How Long Has Diabetes Been Around? – Backtracking The Killer Disease

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Diabetes, the silent killer, threatens to be a pandemic, striking all age-groups. This ‘blood-sweetening’ disease doesn’t bring about a pleasantly sweet outcome in its victims, manifesting into complications ranging from blindness to death! How long has diabetes been around? When did man make the first discovery about this deadly disease? What are the milestones in medical history, towards finding a cure for Diabetes?




how long has diabetes been around - from past to present




Dr. Banting and his revolutionary breakthrough with Diabetes



To answer these questions, let us chronicle through history, to find out about how long has diabetes been around?

As diabetes pronounces varied complications, which makes it a serious concern amongst the common man, medical practioners and the WHO (World Health Organization), a noteworthy question, which comes to our mind is, when were the symptoms of diabetes first noted?


An Egyptian papyrus dating back to 1500 B.C contains a prescription for frequent urination. Apart from high-blood sugar levels, excessive thirst, starvation and loss of weight, frequent urination is the first manifestation of diabetes.

Later a Greek physician Araetus of Cappadocia, first coined the name for the condition during 100 A.D as Diabetes, which in Greek means siphon, as patients complained of frequent urination.

It was sometime in 1889, that two medical researchers discovered that pancreas was related to the condition called Diabetes. This was done by experimenting with a dog, whose pancreas was removed. Post-removal of the pancreas, the dog urinated a lot. The dog’s urine sample tested positive for sugar, which meant it had developed diabetes. Diet restriction was the only way to treat the condition during those days.

The 1921 milestone:

The breakthrough, which revolutionized medical history, was made by Dr. Frederick G. Banting and a medical student, Charles H. Best in 1921. When dealing with an eleven year old patient who suffered from diabetes. They took out a fluid from animal pancreas, purified it and then injected it into the patient. The blood-sugar level of the patient came back to normal and his general health was restored to normalcy.

From thereon, the history of diabetes, once again recorded in the 1940s when the connection between diabetes and its complications affecting the nerves, eye, kidney was first established. It was during the year 1944, that the first ever insulin injection was developed and much later in the 1950s, the first oral drugs were introduced.

In 1959, two distinct classifications of diabetes emerged (the Type I, which was insulin dependent, the type II or non-insulin dependent).

The 1960’s saw improvement in the quality and purity of insulin being produced to render effectual treatment. And it was in 1983 the first biosynthetic human insulin was produced, which marked a breakthrough in the history of diabetes.

The (DCCT) Diabetes Control and complications Trial, a scientific study published in 1993, proclaimed with all evidence, that lifestyle and rigorous therapy for diabetes-afflicted patients can delay the onset of complications in the nerve, eye or kidney.

This study was further bolstered by United Kingdom Prospective Diabetes Study (UKPDS) , which reiterated the control of glucose levels, proper lifestyle to keep under check the ill-effects of TYPE II diabetes.

Diabetes still proves to be a challenge to medical sciences,(diabetes can only be prevented or treated, but with no complete cure) but with clear progress made in the cracking of the human genome, we can  see a blueprint in the making, which determines the onset of hereditary disorders (diabetes can be passed on through the family tree as well). So that “how long has diabetes been around?” need not loom as a dark shadow, which banishes all hope for cure in the future.



Photo courtesy :  Google

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