Is diabetes a new disease?

Diabetes is not a new disease, but the prognosis and quality of life for people with diabetes today is very different from what it was 50 years ago. That's because strategies for preventing type 2 diabetes and treatments for both type 1 and type 2 have evolved a great deal. For example, in the 1950s, about one-third of people diagnosed with type 1 diabetes died within 25 years of being diagnosed. Today that number is about 7%. In the 1950s, about 90% of people with type 1 diabetes eventually became blind. Today, treatments for diabetic retinopathy can reduce risks of blindness by 90%.

Some changes are not so positive. Years ago, type 2 diabetes was called "adult-onset" diabetes because it was rarely seen in children. Today about 3,700 people under age 20 are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes each year. Researchers continue to seek better ways to prevent diabetes and its complications and develop treatments that help people with the condition live longer, healthier lives.
Mr. Eliot LeBow, CDE, LCSW
Endocrinology Diabetes & Metabolism

No, the first mention of diabetic symptoms go all the way back to 1552 B.C., when an Egyptian physician named Hesy-Ra, documented diabetic symptoms such as frequent urination and drastic weight loss for no apparent reason. 

During the 11th Century, testing via "water tasters" was available for diabetes. Diabetes was ruled out by tasting the urine of people thought to have diabetes and a diagnosis of diabetes was given if the urine tasted sweet. 



No. Diabetes was known 2,000 years ago when Aretaeus of Cappadocia, the Greek physician, named it. However, very little progress was made in understanding or treating the disease until 1869 when Paul Langerhans described small islands (islets) in the pancreas. However, he did not know their function.
Things progressed more rapidly when Oskar Minkowski realized that removing the pancreas from a dog caused the dog to urinate frequently. He also found glucose in the dog's urine.
In 1909, the Belgian scientist Jean de Meyer used the term "insulin" for a hypothetical substance in the pancreas that controls blood glucose even though insulin had not yet been discovered.
Finally in 1921, after a series of experiments, J.J.R. Macleod, Charles Best, Frederick Banting, and James Collip succeeded in purifying insulin and successfully treating a diabetes patient with it. This discovery saved many people from dying in a coma due to high blood glucose levels. Diabetes has been around a long time, but we still need new and better therapies.

Continue Learning about Diabetes


Diabetes mellitus (MEL-ih-tus), often referred to as diabetes, is characterized by high blood glucose (sugar) levels that result from the body’s inability to produce enough insulin and/or effectively utilize the insulin. Diabetes ...

is a serious, life-long condition and the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Diabetes is a disorder of metabolism (the body's way of digesting food and converting it into energy). There are three forms of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that accounts for five- to 10-percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes may account for 90- to 95-percent of all diagnosed cases. The third type of diabetes occurs in pregnancy and is referred to as gestational diabetes. Left untreated, gestational diabetes can cause health issues for pregnant women and their babies. People with diabetes can take preventive steps to control this disease and decrease the risk of further complications.

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