Society has somewhat unfairly stereotyped diabetics as obese people with unhealthy lifestyle habits, but this assumption isn’t always accurate. Like many complex medical conditions, diabetes isn’t as cut-and-dry as people would like to believe. In fact, it’s a unique condition with a long history of medical advancement.
Diabetes Has Been a Known Medical Condition for Thousands of Years
We often think of medical advancement and official diagnoses as being a relatively recent development in global history, with most condition recognition occurring within the past 200 years or so. However, diabetes has affected individuals and been recorded as a medical condition for thousands of years. The earliest written record of some of the tell-tale symptoms of diabetes is from an Egyptian papyrus dating back to 1500 B.C.E.
Though the ancient world didn’t yet have a name for the common symptoms of diabetes, like frequent urination, thirst or excessive weight loss, it wouldn’t have to wait too long before the disease was officially recognized. Aretaeus, an ancient Greek physician, noted these strange symptoms and named the condition “diabetes,” meaning “flowing through,” around 90 C.E.
The Slow Evolution of Glucose Meters
Before the development of the modern blood glucose meter, doctors relied solely on urine testing to accurately gauge a diabetic’s blood glucose levels. From ancient physicians all the way to the 1940s, doctors did what some would consider unthinkable to determine if a patient had diabetes. They would taste the urine. Diabetic urine is sweet and, therefore, easy to identify.
In 1941, Ames Diagnostics developed a unique urine testing tablet that created a chemical reaction when introduced to glucose-laced urine. Unfortunately, this reaction emitted immense amounts of heat, causing severe skin burns if the tester wasn’t careful.
Ames Diagnostics later replaced their urine tablet with the first blood glucose meter in 1970. Although these meters were portable, their high cost and unique applications limited their availability to doctors and hospitals.
Dr. Richard Bernstein, however, had other plans. He was a type 1 diabetic who was able to secure a meter from his psychiatrist wife to test his blood sugar at home for the first time ever. Dr. Bernstein then became an advocate for at-home meters for patients.
At-home meters were sold on the market by the 1980s, allowing more patients to take control of their diabetes.
Diabetes is a Global Condition
Diabetes is often associated with obesity and poor diet and exercise habits; conditions that have become, whether unfairly or not, synonymous with the American lifestyle. However, diabetics come in all shapes and sizes from all over the world. Now, type 2 diabetes is rearing its ugly head in thin and young people, even children. Healthy eating and a good exercise regimen can significantly slash your chances of developing the disease, but no one is immune. In fact, it’s estimated one-third of Americans are on the road to diabetes.
Americans aren’t the only ones seeing an increase in diagnoses though. In fact, about half of the world’s diabetes cases are in patients from Asia and the Pacific.
Prioritize Your Health at St. Hope Foundation
Whether you’re a long-time diabetic or you want to know which preventative measures you can adopt to avoid diabetes, your primary care physician is an excellent resource for tips, tricks and treatment plans suited for your unique case. Houston area residents with type 1 or type 2 diabetes can trust the professionals at St. Hope Foundation to provide comprehensive treatment options and preventative care plans to all their patients. Contact us online or call 713-778-1300 to schedule your appointment today.
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