It’s no secret that diabetes is a complicated condition. It’s a chronic disease caused by high levels of blood sugar, and there are lots of causes and long-term health risks of diabetes. And although many have it – almost 10% of the US population, according to the CDC – there is still plenty of misinformation and misconception about the condition.
Here are 19 things you might not know about diabetes.
There are two types of diabetes.
There are two main types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 is caused by a lack of insulin production (the hormone that keeps blood sugar levels normal) and is usually diagnosed in childhood. Type 2 is caused by a built-up resistance to insulin which develops in adults.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease.
Though it’s not yet clear what exactly causes the immune reaction, Type 1 diabetes develops when the immune system damages the cells which secrete insulin in the pancreas, according to the Mayo Clinic. This usually happens early in life, which is why Type 1 diabetes typically gets diagnosed in childhood.
Type 2 diabetes accounts for 90% of cases worldwide.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, and the number of cases is increasing each year, according to the World Health Organisation. Type 1 diabetes accounts for 5-10% of cases.
Insulin is the only medication used for Type 1 diabetes
Because in Type 1 diabetes the body can’t make its own insulin, the only treatment is insulin replacement.
But there are many medications used for Type 2 diabetes.
Unlike in Type 1 diabetes where there’s a lack of insulin in the body, in Type 2 diabetes the body is more resistant to insulin’s effects, so there are many other medications that people can take to help keep blood sugar levels down. Metformin is usually the first medication doctors prescribe, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA) 2018 Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes.
Man-made insulin was first created in 1922.
Before insulin, the only way people with diabetes could reduce blood sugar was to calorie restrict, which caused considerable complications, according to a history of insulin by Quianzon and Cheikh. In 1922, insulin was first reproduced at the University of Toronto by Frederick Banting. Banting won a Nobel Prize for his work.
Insulin was first made from pigs.
The first commercial insulin sources were pigs and, occasionally, cows. Eventually, scientists figured out ways to manufacture different types of insulin using bacteria and yeast, speeding up the insulin manufacturing process.
There’s inhalable insulin.
Although other forms of insulin are injected through the skin, inhalable insulin (brand name Affrezza) has been available since 2014. A previous inhalable insulin device sold under the name Exubra was available starting in 2006 but withdrawn from the market in 2007 due to low sales volume, according to a commentary by Oleck and colleagues.
The first recorded mention of diabetes is from Ancient Egypt.
According to Diabetes Canada’s History of Diabetes, the first mention of diabetes is from physician papers from the 3rd Dynasty in Ancient Egypt (1552 BCE).
And doctors used to diagnose diabetes by tasting urine.
Before the evolution of modern blood sugar testing, physicians would examine patient urine to diagnose diabetes, according to the Washington Post. A post by Sekisui Diagnostics describes that doctors would even create complex urine flavour charts to describe the appearance, smell, and taste of diabetic urine.
Type 2 diabetes isn’t just caused by eating too much sugar.
In addition to diet, several other lifestyle and health factors affect diabetes risk, including activity level, other medical conditions, medication use, and stress. Genetic factors, biologic sex, and ethnicity can also play a role.
Certain recreational drugs can increase diabetes risk.
Per GlobalRPH, certain stimulant drugs can increase blood sugar, and if these drugs are consumed on a regular basis, the resulting high blood sugar levels can lead to insulin resistance and the development of Type 2 diabetes.
Amphetamines (“speed”/amphetamine, meth/methamphetamine), MDxx compounds (ecstasy/molly/MDMA), and ADHD drugs used as concentration aids (Adderal/”Addy”/Vyvanse) are some common stimulants which can affect blood sugar.
Pregnancy can cause a certain type of diabetes.
The changes associated with being pregnant can result in the development of gestational diabetes (GD). Most cases of GD resolve after delivery, but GD can be a risk factor for the development of Type 2 diabetes later in life.
There’s also a “fourth” rare type of diabetes.
“Diabetes insipidus,” (as opposed to diabetes mellitus, which includes Type 1, Type 2, and gestational types) is another type of diabetes caused by hormonal imbalance, according to the UK National Health Service(NHS). The main symptoms are extreme thirst and high volumes of urination. Per the NHS website: “Diabetes insipidus affects about one in 25,000 people in the general population.”
Low blood sugar is also a problem in diabetes.
Although the disease and its complications are caused by high levels of blood sugar, people with diabetes can also experience extremely low blood sugar. This happens when meals are skipped or medication doses are too high. Common signs of low blood sugar include confusion, dizziness, sweating, rapid heartbeat, and loss of consciousness.
Diabetes can affect every system in the body.
Diabetes has long-term effects which can affect every system in the body, according to the Mayo Clinic. Cardiovascular problems, circulation complications which can result in ulcers and amputation, kidney malfunction, nerve damage, and eyesight problems can all occur if diabetes isn’t managed appropriately.
There are new technologies on the horizon to help people living with diabetes.
New advances in health tech may make the lives of people with diabetes easier in the near future. Examples include the artificial pancreas, non-invasive blood sugar monitors like GlucoWise, and Diabetic Socks to prevent foot problems associated with diabetes.
One-half of people with diabetes don’t know they have it.
According to the International Diabetes Federation, one in two diabetics don’t know they are living with the condition. To learn more about your diabetes risk, check out the American Diabetes Association Risk Test.
November is National Diabetes Month.
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