The Discovery of Insulin: How It Revolutionized the Treatment of Diabetes

Living with diabetes can be tough but the discovery of insulin changed everything for those impacted by the disease. It’s a testament to the amazing power of science to help people overcome health challenges. We explore the history of the discovery of insulin and how it revolutionized the treatment of diabetes.

What Is Diabetes?

Diabetes is an ongoing metabolic disorder caused when your body produces too little insulin, or when your body can’t use the insulin it produces effectively. This causes their body to have difficulty breaking down sugar for energy, leading to an excessive accumulation of sugar in the bloodstream.

Diabetes can be Type 1, Type 2, or gestational. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder where your body attacks the cells in your pancreas, destroying their ability to make insulin. This form of diabetes is most often found in children and adolescents, and accounts for roughly 10% of all cases. Type 2 diabetes occurs most commonly in adults 40 or older and is caused by lifestyle, age, genetics and other factors. Gestational diabetes is a metabolic disorder that only occurs in pregnant women and can lead to negative long-term health effects for mother and baby.

The Symptoms of Diabetes

Diabetes has many symptoms, some of which can be severe and require medical treatment. Common diabetes symptoms include:

• Frequent urination

• Excessive thirst
• Extreme hunger
• Unintended weight loss
• Irritability and other mood changes
• Fatigue
• Blurred vision
• Slow-healing sores
• Tingling or numbness in hands and feet
• Recurring yeast infections
• Vomiting and abdominal pain

However, sometimes people with diabetes can experience no symptoms at all.

The Discovery of Insulin

The discovery of insulin was a major breakthrough in diabetes care. In the early 1900s, people suffering from diabetes were told to follow strict diets, which meant avoiding all sweets, breads and rice, at the time considered staples of the everyday diet. This strict dietary regimen was the only way to keep diabetes under control. It was a difficult treatment devoid of simple pleasures, and there were patients who chose to simply live with their illness.

By 1921, Canadian doctors Frederick Banting and Charles Best had identified insulin, a hormone necessary for the human body to convert food into energy that had previously been missing in people suffering from diabetes. After seeing how successful the two were, the Nobel Prize Foundation decided to honour the scientists with the noble Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1923.

Insulin as a Treatment

Insulin was first used as a treatment for diabetes in 1921, but it wasn’t until the mid-1920s when a number of improvements were made to the original extract that it eventually achieved widespread acceptance. In 1925, the Canadian company Connaught Laboratories began producing insulin in large quantities, allowing it to become available worldwide.

The use of insulin revolutionized the treatment of diabetes. Before insulin, diabetes patients would face a chronic decline in their health until they eventually died. But insulin brought hope to these same patients, since with just one injection per day the symptoms could be managed and the risk of death from complications of diabetes could be significantly reduced.

Types of Insulin

Today there are many types of insulin available, each with their own characteristics that make them more suitable for certain patients. The main types of insulin used for diabetes treatment are:

• Short-acting insulin: usually takes about half an hour to start taking effect, with a peak at about two hours and effects can last up to four hours.

• Intermediate-acting insulin: usually takes about two to four hours to start taking effect, with a peak at about four to twelve hours, and effects can last up to 24 hours.

• Long-acting insulin: usually takes two to four hours to start taking effect, with a peak at about 12 to 16 hours and effects can last up to 24 hours.

• Premixed insulin: contains both short and intermediate-acting insulin in the same injection, and usually takes about two to four hours to start taking effect, with a peak at four to six hours, and effects can last up to 24 hours.

Always take note to read the labels of your insulin carefully, as the effects of all insulin can vary depending on individual and environmental factors.

Insulin Delivery Systems

Fora long time, all insulin was injected using a needle, but technology has been advancing diabetes treatments. Nowadays, there are many different ways to administer insulin:

• Injections: a syringe, pen or pump can be used to deliver insulin.

• Insulin Pumps: these are small electronic pumps that deliver precise amounts of insulin into the body.

• Transdermal Gels: these gels are applied to the skin and slowly release insulin over time.

• Jet Injectors: these use pressurized air to deliver insulin into the body.

• Insulin Pens: these pens contain a cartridge of insulin and can be used to inject or inhale insulin.

The Benefits of Insulin

Insulin treatment can help moderate diabetes, but it also has other long-term benefits. Insulin injections can help reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular-related conditions. They can also reduce your risk for kidney damage, retinopathy, nerve damage and amputations, as well as other non-diabetic related diseases.

One of the most important factors is the improved quality of life that results from managing diabetes with insulin. Insulin injections help to reduce many of the symptoms of diabetes and make it easier to live a normal life.

The discovery of insulin changed the lives of millions of people with diabetes around the world. It not only revolutionized the treatment of diabetes, but it also has had long-term benefits in terms of improved quality of life and reduced risk of other medical conditions. With so many delivery systems and types of insulin, it is easier than ever to find a treatment plan that works best for you.