Type 1 Diabetes: The daily struggles of dealing with the invisible, incurable disease

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November is National Diabetes Month, but for the more than a million children and adults in the U.S. living with Type 1 diabetes, every day and night is a constant reminder of a physically and emotionally tedious disorder that requires constant monitoring.

“I wear an insulin pump, a continuous glucose monitor, do several finger-sticks a day, count carbohydrates,” said Bridget Kelly, a mother of two who was diagnosed in her 20s and now in her 40s. “Type 1 diabetes is like a second job that you can’t quit.”

People with Type 1 diabetes must work to keep their blood sugar in a normal range. High blood sugar over a long period of time can lead to devastating complications.

In the short term, blood sugars that are too high or too low can be deadly.

Kerri Sparling, from the blog, also is a mother of two and was diagnosed in second grade. No one else in her family has Type 1 diabetes, and she remembers her parents being very upset with the diagnosis.

They tried to explain a chronic illness to her, to which she said, “So I’m gonna have it until Christmas?!”

Her parents gently replied, “No, honey — all the Christmases.”

Type 1 diabetes can strike people at any age and in any condition. Once called “juvenile diabetes,” we now know people can be diagnosed as children or adults.

Symptoms often include extreme thirst, frequent urination and sudden weight loss, leading to a medical visit during which a person is given a blood test — the only way to identify Type 1 diabetes. For those at risk, their blood sugar is dangerously high.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition in which a person’s immune system attacks the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas, and it can no longer make insulin. Insulin is essential for life because it delivers glucose, aka blood sugar, which all cells in the body need to function.

There may be instant relief after diagnosis, knowing that there is a name for what is happening and that there are monitoring systems — and that insulin that will be available for daily treatment. But for a person with Type 1 diabetes, life is never the same.

“After my diagnosis, I was ready to do whatever was necessary to take care of this disorder, but it’s unimaginable the amount of work that is required to keep your blood sugar within a safe range when your pancreas stops making its own insulin,” Kelly said.

This is different from the more common Type 2 diabetes, most often seen in adults with obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Both types are believed to have a genetic component, and both are linked to the pancreas.

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Living With and Controlling Diabetes

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November is Diabetes Awareness Month. Although diabetes is a national health issue.


Approximately one in eight Louisianians is living with diabetes, and it’s among the state’s leading causes of death. If not controlled, diabetes, which causes high blood sugar, can lead to eye, kidney or nerve damage, and it can raise a person’s risk for strokes or heart disease.


To help people delay or prevent the serious side effects of diabetes, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is reminding members to know their numbers and talk to their doctors about their blood sugar levels to find out if they’re at risk. Family and medical history can also affect a person’s risk for diabetes.

“If you are one of the many people in our state who have diabetes, you’re not in this alone,” said Vindell Washington, M.D., Blue Cross chief medical officer. “Our in-house care team offers many programs and services to support members with diabetes in sticking to their doctors’ treatment plans and getting as healthy as possible. There’s no cost to our members to work with the Blue Cross care team.”

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How Type Two Diabetes and Incontinence are Connected

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This year on the 14th November is World Diabetes Day and we look at the connection between type two diabetes and incontinence.

At first glance it is not easily assumed that diabetes could cause incontinence. However, with the significant increase of diabetes in South Africa there is a need to inform more people about the risk of incontinence when you suffer from type two diabetes. It is estimated by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) that the prevalence of diabetes in Africa is set to double by 2030.

Type 2 Diabetes results when your body resists the effects of (or does not produce enough) insulin to maintain a normal glucose (sugar) level in your body. Insulin helps regulate the levels of glucose in the body; too much glucose can damage your body over time.

Type 2 Diabetes used to largely affect adults, but worryingly, where it was rarely seen before the 1990’s, children are now being diagnosed with it. The main cause is simple; we are eating too much of the wrong types of foods and not exercising enough. Some sources say that obesity has doubled in children and tripled in adolescents over the last 30 years creating health and well-being problems.

Classic symptoms of diabetes are excessive thirst and passing more urine than usual.  This is because glucose builds up in the blood and your kidneys are forced to work overtime to filter it.  As the excess glucose is excreted into the urine, it triggers more frequent urination, which may leave you dehydrated. As you drink more fluids to quench your thirst, you’ll urinate even more.

According to Health24, urination is controlled by the brain, nerves, spinal cord and the urinary tract. The urinary tract includes the kidneys, ureter, bladder, urethra and the sphincter mechanism. If either of these aspects are altered or damaged, the ability to manage urine in the bladder will be lessened. Incontinence is not a condition, but rather a symptom of a condition where the bladder can no longer control the urine supply and therefore leaks.

The human urinary system

A diagram of the kidneys and bladder.

Overactive bladder in the early stages of diabetes will cause very few people to experience incontinence. However, the high blood glucose levels do affect the amount of urine produced in the bladder. And having to frequent the bathroom multiple times a day over many years, will have an impact on the integrity of your bladder muscles. Most people will start to try and hold their urine in as to lessen the visits to the bathroom, but this could start to cause the deterioration of the bladder muscles.

Diabetes commonly causes nerve damage. Nerves in the bladder once damaged can reduce the sensation in the bladder and this coupled with chronic diabetes could weaken the bladder muscles and affect how well they are able to empty the bladder of urine. If urine is often left behind in the bladder it could cause a urinary tract infection. This type of infection can increase the urgency or frequency symptoms.

The best way to prevent incontinence associated with diabetes is to:

  • Work closely with your healthcare professional to control blood sugar and treat any associated high blood pressure/cholesterol and obesity
  • Avoid alcohol and smoking
  • Drink plenty of water each day
  • Practice good perineal hygiene to help prevent infection

5 Important Things to Know About Diabetes in Pets

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Diabetes in Pets

Diabetes in Pets Getty Images

It’s November and that means turkey, family time, pumpkin pie and more — but, for the well-being of your pet, it’s a good idea to put down the fork and take some time to think about something a little more serious: diabetes.

It’s important to diagnose the condition early and with November being National Pet Diabetes Month, the best way to do that is by being informed (cue The More You Know music here).

We rounded up five critical things you should know about diabetes in pets and consulted Dr. Orla Mahony, a board-certified small animal internist and clinical assistant professor at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, for some expert advice and information.

1. Understand what diabetes does.
When a cat or dog eats something, its body usually converts it to energy and the animal can then go about its day — for cats, swatting at cat toys, for dogs playing fetch. The body of a pet with diabetes is a bit more tricky because it can not convert glucose — the main source of sugar for the cells in the body — to energy.

Pets with diabetes have trouble producing or regulating insulin, the hormone made by the pancreas which regulates levels of glucose in the blood. High sugar levels can cause damage to the kidneys, heart and more and without energy to keep things going, fats and proteins will be broken down by the body which causes weight loss.

2. Know the signs of diabetes.
According to Mahony, increased thirst, increased urinations, urinary accidents in the house/urinating outside the litter box, increased appetite (although some pets have normal to decreased appetite), weight loss, and lethargy are some of the signs of diabetes that pet parents may observe.

“Some pets have only one or two signs, and some owners miss the early signs and don’t realize there is a problem until their pet stops eating or is vomiting,” Mahony explains. “The early signs can be missed because some people may expect older pets to have to urinate more often, and as long as they have a good appetite, may not realize there is a problem.”

Pets can exhibit zero signs and still be at risk for diabetes but the risk of that, says Mahony, is low.

Diabetes in Pets
Diabetes in Pets Getty Images

3. Some pets are more at risk than others.
Cats that are obese, cats that are receiving corticosteroids for another problem, dogs with a history of pancreatitis or Cushing’s disease — these animals would be more at risk for diabetes than others, Mahony says. What’s also interesting is that diabetes can be inherited. Certain breeds of dogs and cats are at greater risk, like Australian terriers, Samoyeds and Burmese cats.

Keeping up with regular vet visits, feeding (and not over-feeding!) your pet healthy meals, and spaying female dogs can help your fur kids stay out of the at-risk category, but there are no guarantees. “There are no easy ways to prevent diabetes,” Mahony says, “although preventing cats from becoming obese is helpful.”

4. Diabetes is treatable.
Each pet that is diagnosed with diabetes will receive a treatment plan that will require some level of commitment from the pet owner (hey, like marriage, you promised to be there during sickness and health!) Treatments can include monitoring your pet’s diet and keeping it consistent, providing your pet with exercise, and administering twice daily insulin injections — if the latter terrifies you, take a deep breath and read on.

“Contrary to what one might think, cats and dogs are very tolerant of insulin injections and quickly associate meal times with their shots,” says Mahony. “Insulin shots are practically painless and in most instances, it is far easier [to] give a tiny insulin shot to a cat than try to administer a pill. Veterinarians can work with clients to develop various treatment and monitoring plans that meet their needs.”

A common misconception is that complications will occur, but that, says Mahony, doesn’t happen often. “Many owners of diabetic pets fear that their pet will develop low blood sugar and seizure,” she explains. “In fact, this complication is infrequent and veterinarians try to avoid tight control that risks excessive lowering of blood sugar. Newer technologic advances are also making it easier to monitor pets’ sugars at home.”

5. Pets with diabetes (and the parents who care for them!) can live normal lives.
Everybody want to leave the veterinarian’s office with a clean bill of health, but if your pet receives a diabetes diagnosis know that it is not a death sentence. It’s a fact that dogs and cats with diabetes can lead very normal lives.

“When faced with a diagnosis of diabetes, many clients fear that their lifestyle and their pets’ quality of life will be adversely affected,” she says. “Like any big change, it can be a challenge initially, but hang in there, and after a month or so it becomes routine.”

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The Secret Link Between Sleep and Diabetes

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Rest is best—especially if you’re trying to curb a diabetes diagnosis.

Just one sleepless night could increase your risk for Type 2 diabetes, according to a study in the American Journal of Physiology—Endocrinology and Metabolism. Researchers at Toho University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan found that sleep-deprived mice had higher blood glucose levels and fat content in the liver—both of which are linked to insulin resistance and diabetes.

While sleep deprivation has long been linked with overeating and exercising less, scientists wanted to see if glucose intolerance was caused by sleep deprivation itself and not just a byproduct of being sedentary and unhealthy eating.

For the experiment, researchers looked at two groups of mice. One group was kept awake for six hours and the other group could sleep as they wanted. Both groups has access to high-fat food and sugar water (to parallel human’s food habits) and were given a limited opportunity for physical activity.

After the trial period, researchers measured glucose levels and fat content of the liver and found that the sleep-deprived group had significantly higher blood glucose levels and increased triglyceride levels and production of glucose in the liver—all factors that play into diabetes risk.

Struggling to get a good night’s rest? Try these six ways to sleep better tonight.

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What the Diabetes Community Wants You to Know

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November is Diabetes Awareness Month.

My son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in December 2006. He wasn’t yet two years old and most of what we knew about diabetes came from Wilford Brimley commercials. In the 12 years since, I’ve tried to educate and advocate about all types of diabetes. I host a podcast, and with November being Diabetes Awareness Month, I asked my audience: What would you like people without diabetes to know? Here are their answers:

Diabetes is no one’s choice. No one with any type of diabetes deserves it or wants it. Yes, people with type 2 diabetes may be able to control their condition with diet and exercise, but if it were just that easy, everyone would be a size two. There are genetic and environmental factors contributing to diabetes in ways we don’t yet understand. Stop the blame and shame.

Diabetes is one of the only diseases where the individual is sent home to manage it by themselves day to day. People with type 1 diabetes make dosing decisions every time we eat, are active, before we sleep, when we wake up, when we drive — it goes on and on. We may see our doctor two to three times a year for 15 minutes. Other than that, we’re on our own!

Diabetes is just as much a mental condition as a physical one. In addition to all those decisions we make, people with diabetes may bear a burden of guilt from not having “perfect” blood sugars and from the worry we know our loved ones have for our health and safety.

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Being on insulin doesn’t mean you’re going to have perfect blood sugars. It’s an everyday struggle. With good days and bad. Just like non-diabetics.

People with diabetes aren’t sick; don’t assume diabetes limits us. Sure, we have to do a lot to manage our condition, but people with diabetes can excel in professional sports, extreme athletics, the arts and in regular day to day jobs.

We can eat that! Don’t be the food police; just like the general public, people with diabetes eat a variety of ways. Some prefer low carb, others go for an “everything in moderation” approach. We even eat junk food sometimes (gasp!). There’s a saying that people with diabetes can eat anything but cookies. Made with poison.

There is no cure for any type of diabetes. People with type 2 may be able to reverse the symptoms of diabetes, but there is no true cure. Women with gestational diabetes will find their blood sugar likely returns to normal after pregnancy, but they are at higher risk for future type 2 diabetes.

We are not your hashtag joke. Stop posting your dessert as “diabetes on a plate.”

You can be thin and have diabetes. You can be heavy, even obese, and not have diabetes. It’s about genetics, environment and bad luck just as much as weight.

The price of insulin has tripled since 2002. Insulin is a hormone that every human being needs to live. One in four people with diabetes has cut back on insulin because of cost — a very dangerous practice. Please consider getting involved, calling your representative and/or following the #Insulin4all campaign to help.

The diabetes community is diverse, robust and unfortunately, growing. Before you assume you know anything about us, please take a moment to get educated. This is a great month to do so.

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8 Things You Didn’t Know About Diabetes

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One in eight American adults (about 29 million) has Type 2 diabetes, a condition in which the body doesn’t use insulin properly or make enough of it, causing blood glucose levels to climb. The older you get, the greater your risk.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) estimates that people with diabetes spend 2.3 times more on medical expenses than people without the disease—all the more reason to take prevention seriously or, if you’ve been diagnosed, to manage it as best you can.

1. Sugary foods and drinks don’t cause diabetes. But that doesn’t mean you can consume endless amounts of Ben & Jerry’s. When you overdo the sweet stuff, you’re taking in extra calories, says Sacha Uelmen, RDN, director of nutrition at the ADA. And that packs on the pounds, upping your risk for Type 2.

2. You could have prediabetes and not know it. One in three Americans over age 20—a staggering 86 million—has blood glucose (sugar) levels hovering just below the Type 2 diabetes threshold (fasting glucose level of 100–125 mg/dL). Prediabetes isn’t harmless: It may damage blood vessels and cause nerve problems, says William Cefalu, M.D., chief scientific, medical and mission officer for the ADA. To learn if you should be checked for prediabetes, take the ADA risk test at

3. You can prevent or delay its onset. If you have prediabetes, you can help reverse the disease by losing 7 percent of your body weight. For starters, eat healthfully and get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking. You don’t have to do it alone. The ADA’s lifestyle change program, the National Diabetes Prevention Program, is now a covered one-time benefit for Medicare beneficiaries who meet certain criteria. Ask your health-care provider for details.

4. Even older people can develop Type 1 diabetes. Though it’s dubbed juvenile diabetes because it typically affects children and young adults, Type 1 doesn’t discriminate based on age. A recent study found that 4 percent of 31- to 60-year-olds diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes actually had Type 1. Because it’s more rare in the over-30 set and because Type 2 is so common, doctors sometimes overlook Type 1. Some red flags indicating an older person with Type 2 may have Type 1: Her weight is normal and she doesn’t respond to Type 2 medications.

5. It really hurts your heart. People with diabetes are two to four times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than people without diabetes, says Cefalu. But a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that if you stop smoking and take steps to lower your blood pressure, hemoglobin A1c (a blood pigment that glucose attaches to), LDL cholesterol and albuminuria (a marker for kidney damage), you can erase the excess risk.

6. It can raise your risk for gum disease. Type 1 and Type 2 up the risk for cavities, thrush, dry mouth and periodontitis, says diabetologist Jay Shubrook, D.O., director of diabetes services at Touro University in Vallejo, California.

7. The dreaded finger stick may become a thing of the past. According to the FDA, two new continuous glucose monitoring devices (CGMs)—the Dexcom G6 and the FreeStyle Libre—are “accurate enough to make insulin dosing decisions without the need for a finger stick,” says endocrinologist Aaron Neinstein, M.D., director of clinical informatics at the University of California San Francisco Center for Digital Health Innovation. The latest CGMs are also compatible with smart devices, allowing you to check glucose levels quickly. The Dexcom G6 even sounds an alarm if levels drop, so you can enjoy worry-free sleep.

8. It’s bad for bones. In people with diabetes, hormones and cell products called cytokines can weaken bones, raising fracture risk, says Felicia Cosman, M.D., professor of medicine at Columbia University. Also, conditions associated with diabetes, such as neuropathy, vision problems and low blood sugar, increase the risk of falling and breaking a bone. If you have diabetes, ask your doctor if you need a bone density test, a good idea if you’re over 50 or you’ve broken a bone, says Cosman, editor-in-chief of the journal Osteoporosis International.

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In Diabetes, Going Vegan May Boost Mood, Too


Diabetes is a formidable foe that can tax the bodies and the spirits of people diagnosed with the blood sugar disease.

But a plant-based diet may help boost the physical and the mental health of unhappy people with type 2 diabetes, a new evidence review reports.

Diabetics who switched to a plant-based diet tended to experience a significant improvement in their emotional well-being, according to the combined findings from 11 prior studies.

The researchers behind the review believe this is because a plant-based diet helped them better control their diabetes.

“They feel more in control of their health, and therefore their mood and overall well-being improves,” said study lead author Anastasios Toumpanakis. He is a doctoral candidate with the University of London, in England.

Diet is central to the control of type 2 diabetes, which affects more than 30 million people in the United States, the researchers said in background notes.

Vegan diets eliminate all animal products from your food, including eggs and dairy, said Rahaf Al Bochi, a registered dietitian nutritionist and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

For their evidence review, Toumpanakis and his colleagues collected data on 433 participants in 11 different clinical trials. Of those trials, eight involved fully vegan diets, while the remainder were vegetarian. The trials lasted an average 23 weeks.

People eating plant-based diets experienced an improvement in their physical health and better control of their diabetes, the findings showed.

“These studies demonstrated that this eating pattern helped them to better control their serum glucose [blood sugar] levels, as well as improve their lipid and cholesterol levels,” Toumpanakis said.

People eating the plant-based diets also experienced a marked easing of their diabetes-related nerve pain, with the results suggesting that such an eating plan might slow progressive nerve damage associated with diabetes, the researchers said.

In six of the studies, patients were able to cut down or discontinue drugs they were taking either for their diabetes or for symptoms of diabetes.

The studies also found that people experienced improved psychological well-being. Depression levels dropped, while overall quality of life improved.

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Type 2 Diabetes: Four Tips to Prevent Blood Sugar from Rising this Winter

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TYPE 2 diabetes symptoms can worsen during the winter months, when the weather is colder and winter illnesses are rife. Follow these four tips to prevent blood sugar spikes this winter.

Type 2 diabetes is a lifelong condition in which the level of sugar in the blood is too high.

It can be dangerous if not controlled properly, as it can lead to serious complications involving the heart, nerves, kidneys and eyes.

In winter, complications are more likely to occur as infections are more common, and it’s easier to indulge in unhealthy foods over the festive period.

Dr Sarah Brewer, working in association with CuraLin diabetes supplement, offers the following four tips to prevent blood sugar spikes from occurring this winter.

Keep exercising

It can be tempting to stay indoors snuggled on the sofa when the weather turns colder, but it’s important to remain active and not neglect your exercise routine.

“Don’t reduce your level of exercise when it’s cold – still go out for a daily walk but wrap up warm. Exercise helps to prevent blood glucose levels from creeping up,” said Dr Brewer.

Get the flu jab

Infections cause blood glucose levels to rise, and respiratory infections are more common during the winter.

People with diabetes are advised to get the annual flu vaccination ahead of winter, which they can get for free on the NHS.

Person using diabetes pen; woman outside in snow

Diabetes symptoms can worsen in the winter (Image: Getty Images)

Dr Brewer also advises getting a one-off pneumococcal vaccine, which helps protect against pneumonia, meningitis and sepsis.

Take vitamin D supplements

Most people get enough vitamin D from the sun during the spring and summer months.

However, in winter this is not the case, and Public Health England recommends everyone take a vitamin D supplement during the colder months.

“Vitamin D plays an important role in immunity against infections,” said Dr Brewer.

Don’t neglect your healthy diet

It can be easy to over-indulge on cakes and other sweet treats over the Christmas period, which can raise blood sugar levels.

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10 Things You May Not Know About Diabetes

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You May Put Yourself at Risk for Pre-Diabetes
Diabetes is a complicated condition.
Evgeniy pavlovski/ Shutterstock

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 types of diabetes. Thomson Reuters

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 accounts for 90% of cases worldwide. Steffi Loos/DAPD/Associated Press

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, and the number of cases is increasing each year, according to the World Health Organization. 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.

But there are many medications used for Type 2 diabetes. Pexels

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.

Man-made insulin was first created in 1922. John Sommers II/Reuters

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.

Insulin was first made from pigs. Business Insider

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.

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).

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