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History of Type 2 Diabetes

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  • The Beginnings

    The Beginnings

    Diabetes has been affecting lives for thousands of years. An ailment suspected to be diabetes was recognized by the Egyptians in manuscripts dating to 1550 BCE. According to The National Medical Journal of India, ancient Indians (circa 600 BCE) were well aware of the condition. They tested for diabetes—which they called “sweet urine disease”—by determining if ants were attracted to a person’s urine.

  • The Term "Diabetes"

    The Term "Diabetes"

    In Greek, “diabetes” means “to pass through.” Greek physicians named the disorder for its top symptom: the excessive passing of urine through the body’s system.

    Historical documents show that Greek, Indian, Persian, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean doctors were aware of the condition, but none could determine its cause. In earlier times, a diagnosis of diabetes was likely a death sentence.

  • Insulin Deficiency

    Insulin Deficiency

    The American Diabetes Association (ADA) reports that in 1910, medical professionals took the first steps toward discovering a cause and treatment mode for diabetes. Edward Albert Sharpey-Shafer announced that the pancreas of a diabetes patient was unable to produce what he termed “insulin,” a chemical the body uses to break down sugar. Thus, excess sugar ended up in the urine. Physicians promoted a fasting diet combined with regular exercise to combat the disorder.

  • Diabetes in Dogs

    Diabetes in Dogs

    Despite attempts to manage the disorder through diet and exercise, people with diabetes inevitably died prematurely. In 1921, scientists experimenting with dogs had a breakthrough in reversing the effects of diabetes. Two Canadian researchers Frederick Grant Banting and Charles Herbert Best successfully extracted insulin from healthy dogs. They then injected it into diabetic dogs to improve their condition.

  • The Discovery of Diabetes Types

    The Discovery of Diabetes Types

    Although insulin injection began to successfully combat diabetes, some cases were unresponsive to this form of treatment. Harold Himsworth finally distinguished between the two types of diabetes in 1936, according to writings published by his son Richard in Diabetic Medicine. He defined them as “insulin-sensitive” and “insulin-insensitive.” Today, these classifications are commonly referred to as “type 1” and “type 2” diabetes.

  • Medication


    Type 2 diabetes was not treated successfully for many years. According to the ADA, oral medications were finally developed in the 1950s. These drugs helped sufferers of type 2 diabetes control their blood sugar levels by stimulating the pancreas to develop more insulin.

  • Glucose Meters

    Glucose Meters

    Large portable glucose meters were created in 1969, and have since been reduced to the size of a hand-held calculator. Portable glucose meters are a key tool in managing diabetes today. They allow you to monitor your blood sugar levels at home, at work, and anywhere else. Fairly simple to use, they produce accurate results. Learn more about glucose meters.

  • Type 2 Diabetes in Children

    Type 2 Diabetes in Children

    As recently as 20 years ago, type 2 diabetes was not observed to occur in children. In fact, it was once referred to as “adult-onset diabetes” and type 1 diabetes was called “juvenile diabetes.” However, more cases began appearing in children and teenagers in the past two decades due to poor eating habits, lack of exercise, and excess weight. As such, adult-onset diabetes was renamed “type 2 diabetes.”

  • Diabetes Statistics

    Diabetes Statistics

    Despite the strides we have made since diabetes was first described in ancient times, it still remains a major cause of death and health complications throughout the world. As of 2011, diabetes was the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States, according to the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse.

  • Diabetes Today

    Diabetes Today

    Now that blood sugar can be tested at home, diabetes is more manageable than ever. Insulin remains the primary treatment for type 1 diabetes. Those with type 2 diabetes can reduce their risk of health complications through regular exercise, healthy diets, and other medications. As we continue to increase our understanding of type 2 diabetes, new and more effective treatments and prevention methods will emerge.

  • Insulin Pumps

    Insulin Pumps

    In 1970, insulin pumps were developed to mimic the body’s normal release of insulin. Today, these pumps are light and portable, allowing for comfortable wearing on a daily basis.

  • Simplification of Diabetes Detection and Control

    Simplification of Diabetes Detection and Control

    In the 1960s, diabetes management improved significantly. The development of urine strips made detecting sugar easier and simplified the process of managing blood sugar levels, the Mayo Clinic reports. Introduction of the single-use syringe allowed for faster and easier insulin therapy options.