History of Diabetes: Early Science, Early Treatment, Insulin

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History of Diabetes: Early Science, Early Treatment, Insulin

Diabetes is caused by the body’s inability to make enough insulin or respond properly, resulting in elevated blood sugar levels. Although controlling blood sugar levels is difficult, continuing research improves the chances of living a full life with diabetes.

Although there is no cure for diabetes, better medications and more understanding of probable causes have improved the prognosis since the origin of diabetes.

History of Diabetes

Scientists and physicians have documented the illness now referred to as diabetes for thousands of years. Many creative minds have contributed to the intriguing history of diabetes, from its discovery to medical breakthroughs in its treatment.

The Emergence of Diabetes

Hesy-Ra, an Egyptian physician, reported excessive urination as a symptom of a strange ailment that also produced emaciation in 1552 B.C., the first known mention of diabetic symptoms. Around the same time, ancient healers noticed that ants were drawn to the urine of persons suffering from the illness.

The Greek physician Arateus characterized diabetes as “the melting away of flesh and limbs into urine” about 150 AD. Physicians began to obtain a better grasp of diabetes from then on.

Individuals are well-known as “water tasters” who diagnosed diabetes by tasting the urine of individuals suspected of having it centuries later. The history of diabetes mellitus started like this: Diabetes was diagnosed if the urine tasted sweet. 

In 1675, the term “Mellitus,” which means honey, was attached to the name “diabetes,” which means siphon, to recognize this feature. Scientists developed chemical tests to identify the presence of sugar in urine in the 1800s.

Family history of diabetes ICD-10 code is code Z83.3. WHO gives this code.

Early Diabetic Treatments: history of diabetes mellitus treatment

As doctors gained a better understanding of diabetes, they began to comprehend how it might be treated. Prescribed exercise, often horseback riding, was the initial diabetic treatment, and it was expected to reduce excessive urine. 

Physicians began to recognize that dietary adjustments may assist in managing diabetes in the 1700s and 1800s, and they recommended their patients to do things like eat mostly animal fat and meat or ingest enormous amounts of sugar. During the Franco-Prussian War in the early 1870s, French physician Apollinaire Bouchardat noticed that food rationing helped his diabetic patients’ symptoms; therefore he designed personalized diets as diabetes treatments. This contributed to the early 1900s fad diets, such as the “oat-cure,” “potato treatment,” and “starvation diet.” 

In 1916, Boston scientist Elliott Joslin positioned himself as one of the world’s leading diabetes specialists by publishing The Treatment of Diabetes Mellitus, a manual that stated that a fasting diet paired with regular exercise may substantially lower the risk of mortality in diabetes patients. These concepts are still used today by doctors and diabetic educators when educating their patients about lifestyle modifications for diabetes control.

Insulin’s Origins in Diabetes

Despite these advancements, since the origin of diabetes, it was always incurable and deadly, even before the discovery of insulin. The first major breakthrough in the history of diabetes ICD 10that contributed to the use of insulin to treat diabetes occurred in 1889, when researchers at the University of Strasbourg in France, Oskar Minkowski and Joseph von Mering, demonstrated that removing a dog’s pancreas could cause diabetes

Georg Zuelzer, a German scientist, discovered that injecting the pancreatic extract into patients may help manage diabetes in the early 1900s.

In 1920, Frederick Banting, a physician from Ontario, Canada, came up with the notion of using insulin to cure diabetes, and he and his colleagues began testing their theory on animals. In 1922, Banting and his colleagues utilized insulin to effectively treat a diabetic patient, and the Nobel Prize in Medicine was given the following year.

Where Are We Now with Diabetes?

Insulin is still the primary treatment for type 1 diabetes today, although additional drugs to help manage blood sugar levels have been created since then. Diabetic patients may now check their blood sugar levels at home and regulate their blood glucose levels accurately with dietary adjustments, regular exercise, insulin, as well as other drugs, minimizing their risk of health issues.

Early Treatment for Diabetes

Early Greek physicians advised treating diabetes with horseback riding if at all feasible. They assumed that by engaging in this exercise, people would be able to lessen the need for frequent urination.

Other alternatives for treatment involve:

  • a “non-irritating” milk-and-carb diet, such as milk with rice and starchy, gummy meals “to thicken the blood as well as supply salts” or milk and barley water cooked with bread narcotics
  • Opium foods that are “simple to digest,” like veal and mutton 
  • fenugreek, lupin, and wormseed powders
  • rotten animal meal 
  • tobacco
  • green veggies
  • fasting on a carb-free diet

A 65 percent fat, 32 percent protein, and 3 percent carbohydrate diet were prescribed by one doctor. Nevertheless, he recommended against eating fruits and vegetables from the garden.

Numerous substances and medications have also been advised by specialists, including ammonium sulfide, digitalis, magnesia, chalk, lithium salts, and potassium salts.

Doctors were not always in agreement about which diets or medications to employ as treatments. Some experts also suggested taking steps to improve one’s lifestyle, such as: 

  • exercising
  • putting on warm clothes
  • bathing, including both cold and Turkish baths
  • reducing stress
  • wearing silk or flannel close to the skin
  • acquiring massages

These methods of diabetes management were not very effective, which led to patients with the disease contracting serious health difficulties. 

Discovery of pancreas, and insulin resistance

In 1889, Joseph von Mering and Oskar Minkowski discovered that extracting the pancreas from dogs resulted in diabetes and death.This revelation aided scientists in better understanding the pancreas’ involvement in blood sugar regulation.

Sir Edward Albert Sharpey-Schafer proposed in 1910 that diabetes was caused by a shortage of a particular chemical generated by the pancreas. He named it insulin, which literally means “island,” because it is produced by cells in the pancreas’ islets of Langerhans.

Frederick Banting and Charles Best introduced a pancreatic islet cell extract from healthy dogs into diabetic dogs in 1921. This resulted in the reversal of diabetes and the discovery of the hormone insulin

They collaborated with two other scientists to purify insulin extracted from the cow’s pancreas and develop the first diabetic medication.

Leonard Thompson, just 14 years old, was the very first person to get an insulin injection to treat diabetes in January 1922. Thompson survived another 13 years with the illness before succumbing to pneumonia.

Insulin Resistance: What You Should Know

Sir Harold Percival Himsworth published studies in 1936 that distinguished type 1 from type 2 diabetes.

Many patients, he believed, had insulin resistance instead of insulin insufficiency. Type 2 diabetes is caused by a number of factors, one of which is insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance occurs when a person’s bodily cells lose their sensitivity to insulin and are unable to absorb glucose. The pancreas responds by increasing insulin production. As a result of this, the pancreas is put under stress, causing damage to the organ.

Treatment in the present day

Insulin is required on a daily basis by individuals with type 1 diabetes and certain people with type 2 diabetes. For so many years in the history of diabetes, people relied on injectable animal-based insulin, although therapy has progressed in recent times.

These include the discovery of new insulin delivery methods and the launch of insulin analogs. Both of these characteristics have improved the effectiveness of diabetic therapy.

Insulin produced by humans

Scientists developed the first human-based insulin, known as Humulin, in 1978. The structure of Humulin is similar to that of human insulin.

In 1996, Lispro, the first short-acting insulin, was introduced to the market. Lispro starts functioning around 15 minutes after injection and lasts 2–4 hours. Insulin glargine, for example, is a long-acting insulin that takes a bit longer to absorb and can last up to 24 hours.

Insulin users frequently mix long- and short-acting types. The long-acting dosage works all day, whereas the short-acting dose raises insulin levels somewhat around the meals.

Insulin administration systems

Not only have different types of insulin become accessible over time, but so have new delivery systems.

Blood glucose monitors initially became accessible for home use in the 1980s, giving an accurate technique to monitor blood sugar. Insulin users must monitor their glucose levels in order to ascertain how much insulin they require and how effectively their medication is working.

The insulin pen delivery device was first introduced in 1986. These prefilled syringes, which come in predetermined doses, are a safe and simple method to provide the needed quantity of insulin. 

External insulin pumps were invented in the 1990s, and with proper usage, they can provide:

  • better outcomes
  • increased adaptability
  • treatment management made simpler

These and other inventions assist people in self-managing their conditions. People can have better control over their health and feel more confident in their ability to manage their illness by expanding their awareness and abilities. 

Non-Insulin Treatment for Diabetes

Insulin isn’t used by everyone with type 2 diabetes. A healthy diet is becoming increasingly important for preventing and controlling type 2 diabetes, according to research.

Non-insulin medications

During the twentieth century, a variety of non-insulin diabetic treatments were developed. Each of them can be taken by mouth.

Since 1996, a number of oral drugs to treat diabetes and associated complications have become available. Both Oral and injectable treatments are among the most recent medications.

The following are some examples of non-insulin drugs that are both common and effective: 


Metformin was discovered as a result of the medieval usage of Galega officinal is (also referred to as goat’s rue or French lilac) as a diabetic cure.

Several biguanides were developed throughout the nineteenth century, but they either had significant adverse effects or were never commercialized. Metformin was first made accessible in the US in 1995.


Sulfonylureas: These include sulfonamides, a type of chemical that can lower blood sugar levels. Since the introduction of carbetamide in 1955, several sulfonylureas have appeared.


This medicine is occasionally prescribed to people with type 1 diabetes to make them feel full by slowing the pace at which their stomach empties and reducing glucagon secretions from the pancreas. It can aid with weight reduction and lower the amount of insulin required by a person. 

Sodium-glucose cotransporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitors

Sodium-glucose cotransporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitors lower blood glucose levels without the need for insulin by reducing the quantity of glucose absorbed by the body. They can also assist in the reduction of blood pressure and body weight. Doctors can prescribe them to patients with type 2 diabetes who are at risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, according to current recommendations. They have not been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of type 1 diabetes

Glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) receptor inhibitors

Glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) receptor inhibitors: These can lower blood glucose levels and minimize the risk of cardiovascular disease in people with type 2 diabetes who may be at greater risk of heart attack or stroke. They have not been authorized by the FDA for the treatment of type 1 diabetes. These drugs are available in two forms: oral and injectable.


Above we read about the history and origin of diabetes, typically history of diabetes ICD 10, origin of insulin, non-insulin medications and much more. It is clear from above that Diabetes, particularly type 2 diabetes, is becoming more prevalent. People can manage the illness with a variety of treatment choices and lifestyle changes. Effective treatment options are still being developed by scientists in order to provide the greatest possible quality of life for people with diabetes.