Diabetes Facts
Diabetes Facts

64 Interesting Facts about Diabetes

Karin Lehnardt
By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published January 17, 2017
  • The word “diabetes” is Greek for “siphon,” which refers to the copious urine of uncontrolled diabetes. “Mellitus” is Latin for “honey” or “sweet,” a name added when physicians discovered that the urine from people with diabetes is sweet with glucose.[8]
  • Scientists predict that there may be 30 million new cases of diabetes in China alone by 2025.[1]
  • The earliest recorded mention of a disease that can be recognized as diabetes is found in the Ebers papyrus (1500 B.C.), which includes directions for several mixtures that could “remove the urine, which runs too often.”[1]
  • The name “diabetes” is attributed to the famed Greek physician Aretaeus of Cappadocia who practiced in the first century A.D. He believed that diabetes was caused by snakebite.[1]
  • William Cullen (1710-1790), a professor of chemistry and medicine in Scotland, is responsible for adding the term “mellitus” (“sweet” or “honey-like”) to the word diabetes.[1]
  • Insulin was coined from the Latin insula (“island”) because the hormone is secreted by the Islets of Langerhans in the pancreas.[9]
  • Interesting History of Diabetes Fact
    Oskar Minkowski was the first to link diabetes to the pancreas
  • In 1889, Oskar Minkowski (1858-191931) discovered the link between diabetes and the pancreas (pan - “all” + kreas - “flesh) when a dog from which he removed the pancreas developed diabetes.[1]
  • Before the discovery of insulin, surgeons rarely operated on diabetic patients with gangrene because the patients typically would not heal and would inevitably die. On occasion, an area of gangrene would “auto-amputate,” meaning it would dry up and fall off.[1]
  • Before the discovery of insulin in 1921, physicians would often put their patients on starvation or semi-starvation diets, recommending they eat only foods such as oatmeal.[1]
  • In 1996, a 16-year-old girl with diabetes died at her home in Altoona, Pennsylvania, because her parents refused to provide her with medicine and relied on prayer instead. Her parents were charged with manslaughter.[1]
  • Some researchers have found links between the onset of Type 1 diabetes and the contracting of a virus, especially the mumps or Coxsacki virus.[1]
  • African-Americans and Hispanics have a much higher rate of Type 2 diabetes than whites. There are 74 cases per 1,000 for African-Americans, 61 cases for Hispanics, and 36 cases for whites.[1]
  • The death rate among African-Americans with diabetes is 27% higher than among whites with diabetes. Reasons include hereditary, socio-economic issues, higher obesity rates, and lack of available health insurance or insurance coverage.[1]
  • Some studies have indicated that individuals with diabetes are at much greater risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia than are non-diabetics, though the reasons are unknown.[1]
  • There are approximately 86,000 lower-limb amputations on diabetics in the United States each year. Rates of amputation were higher among men than women and higher among African-Americans than whites. Experts believe nearly half of all amputations could have been prevented with appropriate examinations and education.[1]
  • Interesting Diabetes Fact
    Obesity has led to a dramatic increase in type 2 diabetes
  • Approximately 90% of people with type 2 diabetes are obese.[5]
  • Diabetes has been reported in horses, ferrets, and ground squirrels. In environments where animals are liberally fed, diabetes has been reported in dolphins, foxes, and even a hippopotamus.[1]
  • Diabetes is the main cause of blindness in individuals aged 20-74 in the United States. Experts emphasize that early detection and treatment could prevent up to 90% of cases of blindness that are related to diabetes.[8]
  • Though heart disease has dropped among non-diabetic women by 27%, it has actually increased by 23% for women with diabetes.[7]
  • Well known people with diabetes include Mary Tyler Moore, Jerry Mathers (Leave it to Beaver), and Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead. The late Carroll O’Conner from the TV show All in the Family had diabetes and had his toe amputated in 2000.[1]
  • Olympic swimmer Gary Hall Jr. has Type 1 diabetes. When he was diagnosed, his physician told him to give up swimming. He changed doctors, continued training, and subsequently won a gold medal.[1]
  • White children have a greater risk of developing Type 1 diabetes than children of other races, though the incidence of the disease varies greatly from country to country. Risk factors include being ill in early infancy, having an older mother, having a mother with Type 1 diabetes, having a mother who had preeclampsia during pregnancy, and having a high birth weight.[1]
  • Approximately 11% of all Americans aged 65-74 have diabetes. About 20% of those over 75 years old have diabetes, and nearly half of them are unaware they have the disease.[1]
  • Life is not over because you have diabetes. Make the most of what you have, be grateful.

    - Dale Evans

  • Those with diabetes are more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome and tarsal tunnel syndrome.[8]
  • Those with diabetes, particularly adolescent girls with Type 1 diabetes, may be at increased risk of developing eating disorders. Some adolescent girls purposely withhold their insulin to lose weight.[8]
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.[3]
  • Men with diabetes are at a greater risk for erectile dysfunction (ED) than non-diabetic men. Approximately 50-60% of men with diabetes over the age of 50 have problems with ED. Additionally, ED becomes a problem for diabetic men about 10 to 15 years earlier than a non-diabetic man.[2]
  • Women with diabetes are more likely to develop vaginal infections than are non-diabetics because of their elevated glucose levels.[8]
  • Individuals who have inherited other genetic syndromes (Down’s syndrome, myotonic syndrome, Turner’s syndrome) are also at risk of developing diabetes.[2]
  • Individuals with an “apple” body shape are at greater risk for diabetes than are those with “pear” body shapes.[2]
  • Interesting Diabetes Mellitus Fact
    An apple-shaped body, or excess abdominal fat, is a risk factor for Type 2 diabetes

  • Diabetics have a higher risk of gingivitis than non-diabetics, which may lead to bone and tooth loss. However, only about half of Hispanics with diabetes regularly visit a dentist compared to 58% of African-Americans and 70% of non-Hispanic whites with diabetes.[8]
  • Inhaled insulin is an emerging twenty-first century option for people with Type 1 diabetes. Companies are also working on an insulin tablet that can be given under the tongue.[8]
  • Inhaled insulin is an emerging twenty-first century option for people with Type 1 diabetes. Companies are also working on an insulin tablet that can be given under the tongue.[8]
  • Individuals with diabetes are more susceptible to complications of flu and pneumonia and are six times more likely to be hospitalized for these problems than non-diabetics. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 10,000-30,000 people with diabetes die each year from flu and pneumonia.[2]
  • Experts report that diabetes decreases life expectancy by five to 10 years.[8]
  • Men have a higher risk of death from diabetes than women.[7]
  • Researchers suggest that average glucose levels can be higher for diabetic girls with menstrual difficulties. Additionally, girls with menstrual problems also had a higher rate of hospital admissions for diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).[1]
  • According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, diabetes is more prevalent among military veterans than in the general population. Approximately 16% of military veterans (or about 500,000) have diabetes, compared to 6% of the general U.S. public.[1]
  • Shocking Diabetes Facts
    African Americans are disproportionately affected by diabetes
  • Approximately one in three African-American women between the ages of 65-74 have diabetes.[1]
  • Diabetes mellitus is a general name that encompasses several types of diabetes, including Type 1, Type 2, gestational, and variations such as maturity-onset diabetes in the young (MODY) and latent autoimmune diabetes of adulthood (LADA). What they all have in common is the inability to self-regulate levels of blood glucose (cellular fuel) in the body.[8]
  • Approximately 17 million U.S. residents have been diagnosed with diabetes, which is nearly 10% of the estimated 170 million people suffering from diabetes worldwide.[3]
  • Diabetes insipidus (water diabetes) is a condition completely different from diabetes mellitus. Diabetes insipidus is characterized by a problem with the kidneys in which the kidneys are unable to concentrate urine adequately due to a deficiency in the antidiuretic hormone (ADH).[8]
  • Ancient doctors would test for diabetes by tasting the urine of a suspected sufferer of diabetes. Sweet urine is high in glucose, suggesting the presence of diabetes.[8]
  • Certain diseases—such as cystic fibrosis, pancreatitis, hemochromatosis, and Cushing’s syndrome—may cause pancreatic beta cell destruction that leads to diabetes.[8]
  • Certain diseases—such as cystic fibrosis, pancreatitis, hemochromatosis, and Cushing’s syndrome—may cause pancreatic beta cell destruction that leads to diabetes.[8]
  • An estimated 16 million Americans have pre-diabetes, and many of them are unaware of their condition.[3]
  • Overweight individuals are more prone to develop diabetes because more fat requires more insulin, fat cells release free fatty acids which interfere with glucose metabolism, and overweight people have fewer available insulin receptors.[8]
  • Interesting Diabetes History Fact
    A healthy diet can help reduce the risk for complications associated with diabetes

  • Smoking can increase diabetes risk by constricting blood vessels, raising blood pressure, and stimulating the release of catecholamines (fight-or-flight hormones), which promote insulin resistance.[8]
  • Gestational diabetes occurs in about 200,000 or 7% of U.S. pregnancies annually.[8]
  • Diabetes in the United States alone costs $200 billion annually. This figure includes direct medical costs, such as insulin, amputations, and hospitalizations as well as indirect costs, such as lost productivity, early retirement, and disability.[3]
  • Insulin in the 1920s was initially extracted from the pancreas of a cow (bovine) or pig (porcine). Today’s insulins are created in the lab, cultured from bacteria and yeast through recombinant DNA.[1]
  • The human body is equipped with 60,000 miles of blood vessels and wired with 100,000 miles of nerve fibers. Diabetes often blocks the cardiovascular system and deadens nerves, causing 80% of deaths among patients with diabetes.[8]
  • In women, diabetes impacts estrogen levels, menstrual and ovulation cycles, and sexual desire.[7]
  • Researchers found that every two hours spent watching television was associated with a 14% increase in diabetes risk.[8]
  • Individuals with diabetes are more likely to die from a heart attack than those who don’t have diabetes.[1]
  • Twelve million men (11.2% of all men 20 years and older) and 11.5 million women (10.2% of all women 20 years and older) have diabetes in the U.S.[3]
  • Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, accounting for 44% of new cases in 2005.[3]
  • About 60-70% of people with diabetes have mild to severe forms of nervous system damage.[3]
  • Interesting Oatmeal Facts
    The soluble fiber in oatmeal helps control blood glucose levels
  • A Harvard study showed that eating one serving of cooked oatmeal two to four times a week was linked to a 16% reduction in the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. One serving five or six times a week was linked to a 39% reduction in risk.[1]
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that diabetes has reached epidemic proportions and expects that 80% of all new cases of diabetes will appear in developing countries by 2025.[5]
  • Every 10 seconds someone dies from diabetes-related causes globally. Every year nearly 3.5 million people in the world die due to diabetes. The death rate is expected to rise by 25% over the next decade.[4]
  • India has the world’s highest diabetes population with over 35 million people with diabetes. By 2025, this number is expected to swell to 70 million, meaning every fifth diabetic in the world would be Indian.[4]
  • Diabetes is responsible for over one million amputations each year, a large percentage of cataracts, and at least 5% of blindness worldwide.[5]
  • The five countries with the highest percentage of diabetes are Nauru, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Kuwait.[6]

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