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Diabetes, a disease characterized high blood sugar levels, is one of the most common diseases of the 21st century. This article outlines the 22 facts that you did not know about diabetes.

The prevalence of diabetes has been rising all over the world since the latter half of the 20th century. There are a number of reasons to account for this increase, including higher levels of obesity and sedentary lifestyles. Diabetes, unfortunately, is associated with several different types of complications that can affect a range of different of organs in the body and lead to an increased risk of early mortality.

The more you know about any disease you have or are at risk of, the better you will be able to tackle it. A significant percentage of people with diabetes could have avoided developing the disease and its complications by eating a healthy diet, engaging in physical activity, having a normal body weight, and avoiding smoking. These are some of the other facts you didn’t know about diabetes.

1. There are three types of diabetes

There are two major types of diabetes: type 1 diabetes (which is characterized by a lack of production of the hormone insulin) and type 2 diabetes (which is characterized by the body’s resistance to insulin). Another type of diabetes is known as gestational diabetes. which develops when a woman is pregnant.

2. Type 2 diabetes is the most common

Type 2 diabetes accounts for most patients with diabetes, particularly as obesity levels have increased around the world.

3. Children are increasingly getting type 2 diabetes

More and more children are starting to develop type 2 diabetes, which was previously extremely rare. This increase is largely attributed to an increase in childhood obesity.

4. Diabetes rates have significantly increased

The amount of people that have diabetes has nearly doubled since 1980. The proportion of patients with diabetes in 1980 was 4.7 percent. In 2014, the number had risen to 8.4 percent.

5. 29.1 million people in the US have diabetes

In the United States, an estimated 29.1 million adults and children have diabetes.

6. 422 million in the world have diabetes

Currently, there are approximately 422 million people in the world who have diabetes.

7. Diabetes is one the leading causes of death

In 2012, 1.5 million people died directly as a result of diabetes all over the world, making diabetes is one of the leading causes of death in the whole world.

8. South East Asia and Western Pacific have the highest rates of diabetes

The largest proportion of people with diabetes exists in South East Asia as well as western Pacific areas, which accounts for almost 50 percent of all the diabetes cases in the world.

9. Diabetes was recorded as early as 1500 BC

The earliest record of a patient having diabetes goes back as early as 1500 BC in Egypt, in which the disease was described as one that causes high levels of urination, thirst and weight loss.

10. Diabetes was named by a Greek Physician

The term diabetes was given by a Greek physician called Aretaeus of Cappodocia, who was alive between 81 and 133 AD.

11. Early diagnostic test for diabetes

Doctors first started testing whether a patient has type 2 diabetes by tasting their urine to determine if it was sweet. This was the first known diagnostic method for diabetes. Additionally, some doctors would leave urine out to see if it would attract flies.

12. Diabetes-induced nerve damage was first recorded in the 1600s

In the 1600s, a doctor called Dr Thomas Willis was the first doctor to record pain from diabetes-induced nerve damage.

13. The role of the pancreas was discovered in 1889

The pancreas produces the hormone insulin, which is responsible for regulating blood sugar levels. The role of the pancreas was discovered in the 1889 by two Austrian physicians.

14. Portable blood glucose meter was invented in the late 1960s

The first portable blood glucose meter was not invented until the late 1960s. These were first only available to doctors in hospitals and at-home use portable blood glucose meters were not available until the 1980s.

15. Early diets for diabetes

The earliest diet as a treatment for diabetes included restricting the diet to only whiskey mixed with black coffee and clear soup for non-drinkers. This was given to patients every two hours until sugar disappeared from their urine. This took place in 1916. As it was a low-carbohydrate diet, it actually led to good treatment outcomes.

16. First diabetes medication

The first diabetes medication was known as sulfonylurea, which helps induce the pancreas to produce more insulin. This was discovered in 1942.

17. The first insulin pump

The first insulin pump was developed as a prototype in 1963 by Dr Arnold Kadish, which was designed to deliver hormones to the patient and looked like a backpack.

18. Current oral medications for diabetes

Currently, there are over seven different types of oral medications that can be used to manage and treat patients with type 2 diabetes.

19. Early diagnosis is essential for living a healthy life

Early diagnosis is the key to living a long and healthy life with diabetes. The longer diabetes goes undetected and undiagnosed, the worse the damage to their organs will be.

20. Most diabetes-related deaths occur in low-income countries

Due to the lack of access to healthcare in low or middle-income countries, most deaths due to diabetes occur in those countries as they don’t have access to the type of technologies that are necessary for management of the disease (such as a blood glucose monitor and medicines).

21. Diabetes is associated with significant complications

If left untreated, diabetes can lead to significant complications including blindness, amputation of limbs and kidneys.

22. Lifestyle modifications can help you live a long and healthy life

With the right detection tools and management, patients with diabetes can live long and healthy lives. These treatments and lifestyle changes include diet, physical activity and often, medication. It is also important to regularly screen for any damage to the eyes, kidneys and feet.

  • Olokoba, Abdulfatai B., Olusegun A. Obateru, and Lateefat B. Olokoba. "Type 2 diabetes mellitus: a review of current trends." Oman medical journal 27.4 (2012): 269.
  • Barone, Bethany B., et al. "Long-term all-cause mortality in cancer patients with preexisting diabetes mellitus: a systematic review and meta-analysis." Jama 300.23 (2008): 2754-2764.
  • Blair, Meg. "Diabetes Mellitus Review." Urologic nursing 36.1 (2016).
  • Photo courtesy of SteadyHealth

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