A Tale for the Ages: How the Mystery of Diabetes Was Unraveled
Although it seems to have gained notoriety only recently as increasing numbers of people across the globe have fallen prey to the disease, countless brilliant minds have played a part in the fascinating history of diabetes mellitus. Scientists and physicians have been chronicling this devastating medical condition for more than 3,000 years, from the origins of its discovery to the dramatic breakthroughs in its treatment.
The earliest known mention of diabetes appeared in 1552 B.C. in a 3rd Dynasty Egyptian papyrus authored by Hesy-Ra, one of the world’s first documented physicians, who wrote about an illness resulting in frequent urination...which we now know is one of the key symptoms of the condition. And in the first century A.D., ancient Greek physician Aretaeus vividly described the destructive nature of an illness which he named “diabetes,” derived from the Greek word “siphon” (meaning flowing through), and rendered the earliest account of diabetic patients’ intense thirst and “melting down of flesh and limbs into urine.” Diabetes indeed appears to have been a death sentence in the ancient era: Aretaeus did attempt to treat it, but could not provide a good prognosis. He commented that "life (with diabetes) is short, disgusting and painful.”
In the Middle Ages, diabetes was known as the “pissing evil.” And until the 11th century, diabetes was commonly diagnosed by “water tasters,” who tasted the urine of people thought to have diabetes to see if the excretion was sweet like honey. Thus, the Latin word “mellitus,” meaning honey, was added t Continue reading