What is Diabetes Mellitus?
About 3000 years ago, ancient Egyptians discovered that some people had excessive thirst, hunger and urination. Probably it was at that time Diabetes was unofficially discovered. Even in ancient Indian scriptures, mention has been made of urine of some people attracted ants.
The physicians that time thought that the urine must be containing high level of sugar in it to attract ants. Probably, this was the time that Diabetes was actually discovered. As time went by, scientists from all over the world started studying this condition. A Greek scholar during that period- third century BC- Apollonius of Memphis said to have coined the term ‘diabetes’ at that time.
Today, in these modern times, where there has been a cultural shift in our style of living and eating, we are facing a glut of chronic diseases like Diabetes Mellitus, Dyslipidemias, Heart diseases, Chronic Kidney disease, Arthritis, etc. to mention a few.
Out of these, Diabetes Mellitus stands out as a leading No.1 cause to the other mentioned diseases due to its effect on various organs in the body. I will come to it when we reach the complication part of the disease.
What exactly does the term Diabetes Mellitus mean?
The word ‘Diabetes’ is a Latin word. It was first coined by an ancient Greek physician, Aretaeus of Cappadocia, meaning “ to pass a lot of urine“. The word ‘Mellitus’ is also a Latin word, meaning “as sweet as honey“. This was added to Diabetes by a British physician, Thomas Willis in 1675 when he noticed that the urine of a diabetic had a sweet taste, probably after noticing that ants collected at the site whenever a diabetic patient passed urine.
So, in conclusion, Diabetes Mellitus means ‘to pass a lot of urine that is as sweet as honey’. It is also called glycosuria. [There is another type of diabetes in which a lot of urine is passed but that does not contain sugar and it is termed Diabetes Insipidus].
Causes of Diabetes
That said, we would like to know what causes this mild appearing dreaded disease. Today, the main cause of diabetes is the shift from active life to a sedentary type of life. There is also a change in eating habits from a balanced diet to a high glycemic indexed fast food. Again, due to the advent of new gadgets like video games, childhood games are shifting from outdoor games to indoor sedentary games.
Other causes like a disease of the pancreas[called pancreatitis], a gland that releases a hormone called Insulin, also leads to diabetes. Insulin helps our body to utilize the sugar which has been absorbed by our digestive system after a meal.
Apart from insulin deficiency, an abundance of fatty tissue in obese people and lack of exercise can lead to a condition called insulin resistance in some people. This prevents sugar absorption by fatty tissues leading to a rise in blood sugar levels.
In people fasting continuously for many days, there is an acute lack of blood sugar. This prompts the body to release sugar stored in the liver. This increases the blood sugar level drastically and leads to a condition called “fasting diabetes”.
Here is a short video to show how you get diabetes-
I will discuss the causes and types of Diabetes in my next post followed by signs and symptoms of diabetes mellitus along with investigations in a post following that.
To know more about diabetes, try these links-