This week I want to encourage those who have diabetes, and who find it very cumbersome with daily insulin injections and blood glucose measurements. Those of you who have had diabetes for over 20-30 years might relate to and remember certain parts of the story I’m about to share?
Written by diabetes coach Hildegunn Fossheim
First of all it is important to emphasize that this article is not meant to trivialize the challenges you with diabetes struggle with. Insulin dependent diabetes is a very difficult disease, even in the 21st century – both for the individual and their families. The hope of this article is simply to spread a little more knowledge about diabetes, and that it might be somewhat interesting to know a little about how diabetics throughout the ages have had it?
There are notes describing diabetes which dates back to the ancient age (which began around 700 BC ). “Doctors” at the time noted that the urine of a group of patients had a very sweet taste, and that it was probably mixed with honey or sugar. They diagnosed patients with similar symptoms by tasting their urine. “The doctors” experienced quickly that this “sweet urine” was the precursor to a disease with high mortality, and it quickly became clear that patients with “sweet urine” came to suffer an agonizing death.
In the late 1800′s it was shown that dogs that surgically had removed their pancreas got diabetes. Thus, contemporary scientists realized that diabetes was a disease that stemmed from the pancreas, and a systematic search for a cure or treatment for diabetes was initiated. Before this discovery one of the most popular theories was that the disease originated from the kidneys, because of the the frequent urination.
In 1921, a successful method of isolating a substance called insulin was discovered. The researchers who found this treatment won the Nobel Prize 1923 in Medicine.
A poor boy of 14 years got, as the first patient in the world, in 1922, the first injection of insulin. The insulin saved the boy’s life, which before the injection suffered from severe acid poisoning.
In the coming years it was worked hard to improve insulin, and progress was constantly made.
In the early 1940s test strips to measure urine glucose was made. This was for many years the only method to get an approximate answer of ones glucose levels.
Until 1955, everyone with diabetes used insulin syringes in metal, which required very extensive maintenance. Then the first plastic syringe for insulin was made, and life was tremendously simplified by the fact that these could be used as disposable syringes. I have talked to several older adults with diabetes that can remember metal syringes from their childhood. An acquaintance of mine has taken care of such a needle, this in itself is a gem, and a couple of years back I was fortunate enough to observe it. The needle was longer than the average thickness of an arm of a young child, and I remember well my astonishment at how a little girl of 4-5 years had managed to put this in her arm daily.
Quickly after the long acting insulin came in 1970, the rapid-acting insulin was invented. Until then, the diet for people with diabetes was very restrictive and lean, but now one could finally indulge in more of what one actually wanted to eat, without drastically increasing the risk of complications.
In 1976, a method to determine how well diabetes patients were treated was discovered. A method we all know very well – it’s of course called HbA1c.
The insulin pen hit the market in 1985, and not long after came the first type of insulin pump. The transition from syringes to insulin pen, which quickly was used by everyone with insulin dependent diabetes, was a relief for most.
In 2012 DiabetesGuard, a mobile safety service tailored for you with diabetes, was launched. Many DiabetesGuard-users say that, by using the safety service, they finally dare to take their recommended amount of insulin. This because DiabetesGuard alerts your guardians when can’t turn off the alarm, due to hypoglycemia.
Download Diabetes Guard today – 100 % free installation and use.
Download for IPhone here (automatically brings you to the language of your browser)
Download for Android here (English, Danish, Swedish)
Developments over the last 20 years, with the drastic improvement of the quality of insulin and measuring equipment, as well as treatment options for diabetes type 2, have resulted in overall a very good living condition for many diabetics compared to a few generations back.
Unfortunately, we don’t have to travel longer than to some European countries to find a situation that is completely different from ours. Personally, I know very well how diabetes treatment takes place in Ukraine, a country with reasonable geographic proximity. The situation there is as it was here 30-40 years ago – the mortality rate among young people with diabetes is very high and they have very limited opportunities for glucose monitoring (most people with diabetes in Ukraine do not have the opportunity to measure themselves at home). This is absolutely absurd considering the opportunities we have here. When you’re going to get a chronic diagnosis, we should be glad we live in Northern Europe.
So to all Nordic insulin users: please help contribute to the development, acquire knowledge from health professionals, and ask critical questions. The diabetes advancements today are many and frequent. Do not settle for “almost good enough” follow-up and treatment.