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Diabetes mellitus

A disease resulting from a lack of insulin production by the pancreas or a loss of the cell response to insulin that causes a loss of control of the glucose balance of the body.


A list of often difficult or specialised words with their definitions.


A disorder where an excessive amount of fat has accumulated in the body. It results when the energy taken in as food is stored in the body instead of being used up through activity


A type of sugar: a mono saccharide with 6 carbon atoms (a hexose sugar).


A hormone produced by the pancreas. It allows cells in the body to take in and store glucose.


Reddish brown organs which get rid of waste urea from the body and balance the water and mineral ion concentration of the blood


The liquid which leaves your body through the urethra. It contains water, salts urea and other chemicals.

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.

Obese man

Diabetes is on the increase within developed nations, Obesity in particular is linked with an increased risk in diabetes

Courtesy of: Anthea Sieveking / Wellcome Images

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.

How to use this site

There are a number of interactive features in this e-source:

  • A glossary of terms: any word with a glossary entry is highlighted like this. Moving the mouse over the highlighted word will show a definition of that word.
  • Quick questions: at the end of most pages or sections there is a question or set of quick questions to test your understanding.
  • Animations: most of the animations can be expanded to full screen size, ideal for showing on an interactive whiteboard. The animations will play all the way through or can be viewed one section at a time.
  • Downloads: Teachers can download individual diagrams, animations and other content from the Download Library area of the website. Terms and Conditions apply.