Diabetes in History

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1500 BC

Egyptian manuscripts identified a disease that caused excessive urination and weight loss, according to the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).


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Somewhere between 80 and 138 C.E.

The Greek physician Aretaeus used the term diabetes mellitus to describe the condition of urine that had a sweet taste, according to NEJM. Indian physicians noticed the sweetness in some people’s urine, calling it madhumeha, or honey urine, because it attracted ants, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).


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1812

When the New England Journal of Medicine and Surgery was founded in 1812, diabetes was recognized as a clinical entity although the causes weren’t yet understood and no treatments were available.


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1869

Paul Langerhans, a student working on his medical doctorate, identified cells in the pancreas that secrete insulin although the term 'insulin' was not coined until 1909, according to the NIH.


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1916

The first edition of The Treatment of Diabetes Mellitus was written by Elliott Joslin, who is considered one of the most influential voices in diabetes care, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA).


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1921

Insulin from dogs’ pancreases was extracted and injected into dogs whose pancreases had been removed and it was noted that their blood sugar levels decreased. Two men involved in the study, Frederick Banting, MD and Professor J.J.R. Macleod were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1923 for the discovery, according to the ADA.


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1969

Ames Diagnostics produced do-it-yourself glucometers which allowed people to test blood sugar levels at home rather than needing to visit a doctor or the emergency room. This invention gave patients “a new sense of freedom, making the disease more comprehensible and manageable,” according to the NIH.


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1970s

The 1970s brought multiple discoveries and inventions:

  • 1974 – The first continuous glucose monitoring and closed loop insulin infusion device was developed
  • 1976 – Insulin pumps were invented
  • 1977 – Rosalyn Yalow, PhD was awarded the Nobel Prize for her work measuring insulin


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1980

Graham Bell developed the first human insulin (synthetic insulin that mimics naturally produced insulin), according to the NIH.


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1982

The FDA approves human insulin that is produced with genetically altered bacteria, according to the ADA.


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1989

The first Standards of Care for the treatment of diabetes for physicians was released by the ADA.


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1995

The medication Metformin, which is used to treat high blood sugar levels caused by type 2 diabetes by preventing glucose production in the liver becomes available in the United States, according to the ADA.


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2000

Continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) systems become commercially available, according to a 2016 report.


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2002

The ADA defines standards for prediabetes, including impaired fasting glucose and impaired glucose tolerance


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2012

Bydureon, the first once-weekly treatment for type 2 diabetes was approved.


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2018

CGMs continue to improve. There are models that report blood glucose levels in real time, can alert you when your glucose level is too high or too low and give you data to see trends so you can see how eating or exercising affects your glucose according to Diabetes Forecast. Flash glucose monitors only need to be held next to a sensor to get your glucose reading.