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What is diabetes mellitus?

Diabetes mellitus is a condition where sufferers cannot properly regulate the way their body uses glucose. There are 180 million people worldwide who suffer from diabetes; 2.5 million are in the United Kingdom.

The disorder is more commonly known as diabetes and this will be used throughout the resource.

Diabetes: An introduction

The ancient Egyptians first recognised the disorder now known as diabetes mellitus. The name relates to 'sweet tasting urine' because one of the signs of the disease is that sugar (glucose) can be found in the urine. Physicians in the past would have tasted the urine of patients to detect diabetes mellitus.

It was not until 1922 that insulin was discovered and successfully used to treat diabetes. Until then, diabetics would die prematurely due to problems caused by their diabetes, such as severe weight loss and cardiovascular disorders.

Today, diabetes is not such a killer. It can be controlled with a strict diet, medicines or a combination of both. However, if not managed correctly, diabetes can cause problems with the heart and circulation, kidney damage and blindness. Worldwide, 4 million people continue to die each year due to disorders associated with diabetes.