Diabetes Mellitus
The name "diabetes mellitus" means "sweet urine." It stems from ancient times, when physicians would taste a patient's urine as a part of diagnosis.
Odds are that you know someone with diabetes mellitus, possibly even someone who has to take insulin each day to manage the disease. Diabetes is a growing health problem in the United States and has risen about six-fold since 1950, now affecting approximately 16 million Americans. About one-third of those 16 million do not know that they have the disease. Diabetes-related health care costs total nearly $100 billion per year and are increasing. Diabetes contributes to over 200,000 deaths each year.

Photo courtesy Eli Lilly & Company
Insulin is what diabetics lack and need for treatment.

To understand diabetes, you first need to know about how your body uses a hormone called insulin to handle glucose, a simple sugar that is its main source of energy. In diabetes, something goes wrong in your body so that you do not produce insulin or are not sensitive to it. Therefore, your body produces high levels of blood glucose, which act on many organs to produce the symptoms of the disease.

In this edition of HowStuffWorks, we will examine this serious disease. We will look at how your body handles glucose. We'll find out what insulin is and what it does, how the lack of insulin or insulin-insensitivity affects your body functions to produce the symptoms of diabetes, how the disease is currently treated and what future treatments are in store for diabetics.