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Saudi Med J. 2002 Apr;23(4):373-8.

History of diabetes mellitus.

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Faculty of Medicine, University of Bahr Elghazal, PO Box 102, Khartoum, Sudan.


Clinical features similar to diabetes mellitus were described 3000 years ago by the ancient Egyptians. The term "diabetes" was first coined by Araetus of Cappodocia (81-133AD). Later, the word mellitus (honey sweet) was added by Thomas Willis (Britain) in 1675 after rediscovering the sweetness of urine and blood of patients (first noticed by the ancient Indians). It was only in 1776 that Dobson (Britain) firstly confirmed the presence of excess sugar in urine and blood as a cause of their sweetness. In modern time, the history of diabetes coincided with the emergence of experimental medicine. An important milestone in the history of diabetes is the establishment of the role of the liver in glycogenesis, and the concept that diabetes is due to excess glucose production Claude Bernard (France) in 1857. The role of the pancreas in pathogenesis of diabetes was discovered by Mering and Minkowski (Austria) 1889. Later, this discovery constituted the basis of insulin isolation and clinical use by Banting and Best (Canada) in 1921. Trials to prepare an orally administrated hypoglycemic agent ended successfully by first marketing of tolbutamide and carbutamide in 1955. This report will also discuss the history of dietary management and acute and chronic complications of diabetes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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