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Glossary

Glossary

For more diabetes lingo, view the complete list of diabetes terminology at  The American Diabetes Association here.


A1C
A measure of a person's average blood sugar (blood glucose) level over the previous two to three months. Hemoglobin (HEE-mo-glo-bin) is the part of a red blood cell that carries oxygen to the cells and sometimes joins with the glucose in the bloodstream. Also called hemoglobin A1C or glycosylated (gly-KOH-sih-lay-ted) hemoglobin, the test shows the amount of glucose that sticks to the red blood cell, which is proportional to the amount of glucose in the blood.

Acute Describes something that happens suddenly and for a short time. Opposite of chronic.

Adult-Onset diabetes Former term for type 2 diabetes, generally an outdated label as both children and adults may be diagnosed with type 1 or type 2 diabetes (as well as other forms).

Antibodies (AN-ti-bod-eez) Proteins made by the body to protect itself from "foreign" substances such as bacteria or viruses. People develop type 1 diabetes when their bodies make antibodies that destroy the body's own insulin-making beta cells.

Autoimmune disease (AW-toh-ih-MYOON) Disorder of the body's immune system in which the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys body tissue that it believes to be foreign.

Basal rate This is the background insulin needed to circulate through the body at all times. Basal insulin may be injected or infused via insulin pump. There are several different basal insulins on the market. Basal insulin is generally not used for meals or to cover high blood sugars. 

Beta cell  A cell that makes insulin. Beta cells are located in the islet cells of the pancreas.

Blood glucose (also called blood sugar) The main source of energy that food is turned into that’s found in the blood.

Blood sugar (blood glucose) level The amount of blood glucose found in the blood at a specific time. Commonly, It is measured in milligrams per deciliter, or mg/dL in the US and mmol/L in the UK and Canada. 

Blood glucose meter A small, portable device used by people with diabetes to check blood sugar levels. After pricking the skin with a lancet, a drop of blood is placed on a test strip. The blood glucose meter (sometimes called a monitor) measures and displays the blood sugar level. 

Blood glucose monitoring Checking blood sugar level on a regular basis in order to manage diabetes. A blood sugar meter or continuous glucose monitor (CGM) is needed for blood glucose monitoring.

Body mass index (BMI)  A measure used to evaluate body weight relative to a person's height. BMI can be used to help determine if a person is underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese.

Bolus (BOH-lus)  Also commonly known as "mealtime" insulin, is insulin used cover an expected rise in blood sugar (often taken at mealtime) or to help lower an unexpected rise in blood sugar.

Borderline diabetes Not a term recognized by the American Diabetes Association, "borderline diabetes" is sometimes used to describe prediabetes.

Brittle diabetes Not a term recognized by the American Diabetes Association, but sometimes used to describe when a person's blood sugar (blood glucose) levels move in extremes from low to high and from high to low. 

Carbohydrate (kar-boh-HY-drate) One of the three main nutrients in food. Foods that provide carbohydrate are starches, vegetables, fruits, dairy products, and sugars. People with diabetes, especially type 1 diabetes, often have to take insulin when consuming carbohydrates. 

Carbohydrate counting A method of meal planning based on counting the number of grams of carbohydrate in food.

Certified diabetes care and education specialist (CDCES)  A healthcare professional with expertise in diabetes education who has met eligibility requirements and successfully completed a certification exam.

Chronic Describes something that is long-lasting. Opposite of acute.

Coma A sleep-like state in which a person is not conscious. In people with diabetes, hyperglycemia (high blood glucose) or hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) may, in rare cases, cause such state. 

Combination therapy The use of more than one medication (this can be oral and injected medications typically used to treat type 2 diabetes and insulin) to manage blood sugar levels.

Complications of Diabetes  Unwanted side effects of diabetes such as damage to the eyes, heart, blood vessels, nervous system, teeth and gums, feet, skin, or kidneys. Studies show that managing blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol may help prevent or delay complications. 

Dawn phenomenon (feh-NAH-meh-nun) A possible early-morning (may begin as early as 3a.m.) rise in blood sugar that may stay elevated throughout the morning as well as require additional insulin. 

Desensitization (dee-sens-ih-tiz-A-shun) Reduced physical response to something. For example, if someone has diabetes and has frequent low blood sugar (blood glucose) levels (hypoglycemia), the body may not react with the same symptoms that would generally occur with a low blood sugar.  

Diabetes educator A healthcare professional trained to help people with diabetes and their loved ones manage diabetes. Diabetes educators are often certified diabetes care and education specialists (CDCES). 

Diabetes insipidus (in-SIP-ih-dus) A condition unrelated to type 1, type 2, or gestational diabetes that is characterized by frequent and heavy urination, excessive thirst and an overall feeling of weakness. 

Diabetes (diabetes mellitus) (MELL-ih-tus) A condition where the body’s blood sugar (blood glucose) levels are chronically elevated due to the body's inability to use or store blood sugar for energy. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas no longer makes insulin and blood sugar is unable to enter cells to be used for energy. In type 2 diabetes, either the pancreas does not make enough insulin or cannot use the insulin that is produced effectively.

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) (KEY-toe-ass-ih-DOH-sis) An emergency condition in which high blood sugar
levels, along with a lack of insulin, result in the breakdown of body fat for energy and an accumulation of ketones in the blood and urine. Signs of DKA include nausea and vomiting, stomach pain, fruity breath odor, and rapid breathing. Untreated DKA can lead to coma and death. MEDICAL HELP IS REQUIRED.

Diabetic retinopathy (REH-tih-NOP-uh-thee) A type of diabetic eye disease caused by damage to the small blood vessels in the retina. There are several treatment options available. 

Diabetologist (DY-uh-beh-TAH-luh-jist) A physician who specializes in treating people with diabetes.

Diagnosis (DY-ug-NO-sis) The determination of a disease from its signs and symptoms. 

Dietitian (DY-eh-TIH-shun) A healthcare professional who can advise people about meal planning, weight control, and diabetes management. A registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) has additional training.

Dilated eye exam (DY-lay-ted) A test done by an eye care specialist in which the pupil (the black center) of the eye is temporarily enlarged with eyedrops to allow the specialist to see the inside of the eye more easily. Often photomapping is a recommended option available to people with diabetes to capture a "photo" of the eye. 

Endocrine glands (EN-doh-krin) A group of specialized cells that release hormones into the blood. For example, the islets in the pancreas, which secrete insulin, are endocrine glands.

Endocrinologist (EN-doh-krih-NAH-luh-jist) A doctor who specializes in treating people who have endocrine gland concerns, such as diabetes.

Enzyme (EN-zime) Protein made by the body that brings about a chemical reaction, for example, the enzymes produced by the gut to aid digestion.

Euglycemia (you-gly-SEEM-ee-uh) A normal level of glucose in the blood. There is a form of DKA known as "Euglycemic DKA" where DKA occurs although blood sugars are in the normal range. 

Exchange lists One of several approaches for meal planning with diabetes. Foods are categorized into three groups based on their nutritional content. Lists provide the serving sizes for carbohydrates, meat and meat alternatives, and fats. These lists allow for substitution for different groups to keep the nutritional content fixed.

Fasting blood glucose test  A check of a person's blood sugar level after the person has not eaten for 8 to 12 hours (usually overnight). A fasting blood sugar done in a lab is one of the measurements used to diagnose prediabetes and diabetes. 

Fat One of the three main nutrients in food. Examples of foods that provide fat are butter, margarine, salad dressing, oil, nuts, meat, poultry, fish, and some dairy products. Excess calories are stored as body fat, providing the body with a reserve supply of energy and is also used for other functions.

Fructose (FROOK-tohss) A sugar that occurs naturally in fruits and honey. Fructose has four calories per gram.

Gestational diabetes (GDM) (jes-TAY-shun-ul MELL-ih-tus) A type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy and may disappear upon delivery, GD may increase the risk that the mother will develop diabetes later. GDM is managed with meal planning, activity, and in some cases, insulin.

Glaucoma (glaw-KOH-muh) An increase in fluid pressure inside the eye that may lead to vision loss.

Glucagon (GLOO-kah-gahn) A hormone produced by the alpha cells in the pancreas that raises blood sugar. Both injectable and nasal forms of glucagon are available by prescription and used to treat severe hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

Glucose tablets Tablets made of pure glucose, used for treating hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

Glycemic index (gly-SEE-mik) A ranking of carbohydrate-containing foods, based on the food's effect on blood sugar compared with a standard reference food. This value is not easily accessible for meal planning.

Glycosuria (gly-koh-SOOR-ee-ah) The presence of glucose in the urine.

Honeymoon phase  Some people with type 1 diabetes experience a brief diabetes "remission" called the "honeymoon period." During this time the pancreas may still secrete some insulin. Over time, this secretion stops and the person will require an increase in insulin. The honeymoon period can last weeks, months or longer.

Hormone  A chemical produced in one part of the body and released into the blood to trigger or regulate particular functions of the body.

Hyperglycemia (HY-per-gly-SEE-mee-uh) High blood sugar (blood glucose). 

Hyperinsulinemia (HY-per-IN-suh-lih-NEE-mee-uh) A condition in which the level of insulin in the blood is higher than normal and caused by overproduction of insulin by the body. It is commonly found in people with insulin resistance.

Hypoglycemia (hy-po-gly-SEE-mee-uh) Low blood sugar is a condition that occurs when one's blood sugar is lower than the target, usually less than 70 mg/dL. Signs may include hunger, nervousness, shakiness, perspiration, dizziness or light-headedness, sleepiness and confusion. If left untreated, hypoglycemia may lead to unconsciousness. Hypoglycemia is treated by consuming a carbohydrate-rich food such as a glucose tablet or juice. Severe low blood sugar may also be treated with an injection of glucagon if the person is unconscious or unable to swallow. It is often referred to as an insulin reaction.

Hypoglycemia unawareness (un-uh-WARE-ness) A state in which a person does not feel or recognize the symptoms of hypoglycemia. People who have frequent episodes of hypoglycemia may no longer experience the warning signs of it.

Impaired fasting glucose (IFG) A previous term for prediabetes found when using a fasting plasma glucose test.

Impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) A previous term for prediabetes found when using an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT).

Implantable insulin pump (im-PLAN-tuh-bull) A small pump placed inside the body to deliver insulin in response to remote control commands from the user.

Inhaled insulin An insulin in powder form that is inhaled to quickly lower blood sugar.

Injection (in-JEK-shun) Inserting liquid medication or nutrients into the body with a syringe.

Injection site rotation Changing the location on the body where insulin is injected. Rotation prevents the formation of lipodystrophies.

Injection sites  Locations on the body where insulin is generally injected.

Insulin A hormone that helps the body use glucose for energy. For those with diabetes, it is often taken to manage blood sugar.

Insulin adjustment A change in the amount of insulin a person with diabetes takes based on factors such as meal planning, activity, and blood sugar levels.

Insulin analogues An insulin analogue is a tailored form of insulin in which certain amino acids in the insulin molecule have been modified. The analogue acts in the same way as the original insulin, but with some beneficial differences for people with diabetes. Analogues are sometimes referred to as "designer" insulins.

Insulin pen A device for injecting insulin that holds cartridges of insulin. 

Insulin pump An insulin-delivering device worn either on the skin (tubeless) or connected to the skin via tubing (tubed). An insulin pump infuses a steady trickle or basal amount of insulin continuously throughout the day. Pumps can also deliver bolus doses of insulin at meals and at times when blood sugar is elevated.

Insulin reaction When the level of glucose in the blood becomes low enough to cause symptoms such as dizziness, confusion, sweating, loss of consciousness, seizure or coma. 

Insulin receptors Areas on the outer part of a cell that allow the cell to bind with insulin in the blood. When the cell and insulin bind, the cell can take glucose from the blood and use it for energy.

Insulin resistance The body's inability to respond to and use the insulin it produces. Insulin resistance may be linked to obesity, hypertension, and high levels of fat in the blood.

Insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) Former term for type 1 diabetes.

Insulinoma (IN-suh-lih-NOH-mah) A tumor of the beta cells in the pancreas. An insulinoma may cause the body to make extra insulin, leading to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

Intensive therapy A method for managing diabetes in which blood sugar (blood glucose) is kept as close to normal as possible. Requires frequent blood sugar monitoring and understanding of insulin dosing. 

Islet cell autoantibodies (ICAs) (EYE-let aw-toe-AN-ti-bod-eez) Proteins found in the blood of people newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. They are also found in people who may be developing type 1 diabetes. The presence of ICAs indicates that the body's immune system has been damaging beta cells in the pancreas.

Islet cell transplantation Moving the islet cells from a donor pancreas into a person whose pancreas has stopped producing insulin. Beta cells in the islets of Langerhans make the insulin that the body needs for using blood sugar.

Islets of Langerhans (LANG-er-hahns) Groups of cells located in the pancreas that make hormones that help the body break down and use food. For example, alpha cells make glucagon and beta cells make insulin. Also called islets. 

Juvenile diabetes Former term for type 1 diabetes.

Ketone A chemical produced when there is a shortage of insulin in the blood and the body begins to break down fat for energy. High levels of ketones can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). Sometimes referred to as ketone bodies.

Ketonuria (key-toe-NUH-ree-ah) A condition occurring when ketones are present in the urine, a warning sign of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).

Ketosis (ke-TOE-sis) A ketone buildup in the body that may lead to diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). Signs of ketosis are nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain.

Lancet A spring-loaded device used to prick the skin with a small needle to obtain a drop of blood for blood glucose monitoring.

Latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA)  A slow progressing form of autoimmune diabetes. Unlike Type 1 diabetes, a person may go for months or years after diagnosis before needing insulin. 

Lipoatrophy (LIP-oh-AT-ruh-fee) Loss of fat under the skin resulting in small dents. Lipoatrophy may be caused by repeated injections of insulin in the same spot.

Lipodystrophy (LIP-oh-DIH-struh-fee) Caused by the breaking down or building up of fat below the surface of the skin, resulting in lumps or small dents in the skin surface. (See lipohypertrophy or lipoatrophy.) Lipodystrophy may be caused by repeated injections of insulin in the same spot.

Lipohypertrophy (LIP-oh-hy-PER-truh-fee) Buildup of fat below the surface of the skin, causing lumps. Lipohypertrophy may be caused by repeated injections of insulin in the same spot.

Macrosomia (mack-roh-SOH-mee-ah) Abnormally large. In diabetes the term is used to refer to abnormally large babies that may be born to women with diabetes. Elevated blood sugars during pregnancy has been traditionally correlated. 

Maturity-onset diabetes of the young (MODY) A kind of type 2 diabetes that occurs in younger people.

Metabolic syndrome Is used to describe the tendency of several conditions to occur together, including obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes or prediabetes, hypertension and high lipids.

Metabolism The term for the way cells chemically change food so that it can be used to store or use energy and make the proteins, fats, and sugars needed by the body.

Mg/dL milligrams (MILL-ih-grams) per deciliter (DESS-ih-lee-tur) A unit of measure that shows the concentration of a substance in a specific amount of fluid. In the United States, blood sugar results are reported as mg/dL. Other countries use millimoles per liter (mmol/L). To convert to mg/dL from mmol/L, multiply mmol/L by 18. Example: 10 mmol/L �18 = 180 mg/dL.

Mixed dose A combination of two types of insulin in one injection. A person should not combine insulin unless  directed by provider. 

Mmol/L Millimoles per liter, a unit of measure that shows the concentration of a substance in a specific amount of fluid. In other countries, blood sugar results are reported as mmol/L. In the United States, milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) is used. To convert to mmol/L from mg/dL, divide mg/dL by 18. Example: 180 mg/dL × 18 = 10 mmol/L.

Necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum (NEK-roh-by-OH-sis lih-POY-dik-ah DY-uh-bet-ih-KOR-um) A skin condition usually on the lower part of the legs. Lesions can be small or extend over a large area. They are usually raised, yellow, and waxy in appearance and often have a purple border.

Neuropathy (ne-ROP-uh-thee)—diabetic nerve disease Disease of the nervous system. The three major forms in people with diabetes are peripheral neuropathy, autonomic neuropathy and mononeuropathy. The most common form is peripheral neuropathy, which affects mainly the legs and feet.

Noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) Former term for type 2 diabetes.

Noninvasive blood glucose monitoring (NON-in-VAY-siv) Measuring blood sugar without pricking the finger to obtain a blood sample.

NPH insulin An intermediate-acting insulin. NPH stands for Neutral Protamine Hagedorn. On average, NPH insulin starts to lower blood sugar within one to two hours after injection. It has its strongest effect 6 to 10 hours after injection but keeps working about 10 hours after injection. Also called N insulin.

Nutritionist (noo-TRIH-shuh-nist) A person with training in nutrition and may or may not have specialized training and qualifications. See dietitian.

Obesity A condition in which a greater than normal amount of fat is in the body and is more severe than overweight, requires a body mass index of 30 or more.

Oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) A test to diagnose prediabetes and diabetes. The oral glucose tolerance test is given by a health care professional after an overnight fast. A blood sample is taken, then the patient drinks a high-glucose beverage. Blood samples are taken at intervals for two to three hours. Test results are compared with a standard and show how the body uses glucose over time.

Oral hypoglycemic agents (hy-po-gly-SEE-mik) Medicines taken by mouth and used by people with diabetes to help manage blood suga levels. 

Pancreas (PAN-kree-us) An organ that makes insulin and enzymes for digestion. The pancreas is located behind the lower part of the stomach and is about the size of a hand.

Pancreas transplantation A surgical procedure to take a healthy, whole or partial, pancreas from a donor and place it into a person with diabetes.

Pediatric endocrinologist (pee-dee-AT-rik en-doh-krih-NAH-luh-jist) A physician who treats children with endocrine gland issues such as diabetes.

Peripheral neuropathy (puh-RIF-uh-rul ne-ROP-uh-thee) Nerve damage that affects the feet, legs, or hands. Peripheral neuropathy may cause pain, weakness, tingling, burning and numbness in the extremities. 

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) (puh-RIF-uh-rul VAS-kyoo-ler) A disease of the large blood vessels of the arms or legs. PAD may occur when major blood vessels are blocked and do not receive adequate blood flow. The signs of PAD are aching pains and slow-healing foot sores.  

Pharmacist (FAR-mah-sist) A health care professional who prepares and distributes medications. Pharmacists may also provide information on medications, dosing and interactions. 

Photocoagulation (FOH-toh-koh-ag-yoo-LAY-shun) A treatment for diabetic retinopathy. A strong beam of light (laser) is used to seal off bleeding blood vessels in the eye and to burn away extra blood vessels. 

Polydipsia (pah-lee-DIP-see-uh) Excessive thirst; may be a sign of diabetes.

Polyphagia (pah-lee-FAY-jee-ah) Excessive hunger; may be a sign of diabetes.

Polyuria (pah-lee-YOOR-ee-ah) Excessive urination; may be a sign of diabetes.

Postprandial blood glucose (post-PRAN-dee-ul) the blood sugar level one to two hours after eating.

Prediabetes A condition in which blood sugar levels are elevated but not significant enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. People with prediabetes may be at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Premixed insulin A commercially produced combination of two different types of insulin. See 50/50 insulin and 70/30 insulin.

Preprandial blood glucose (pree-PRAN-dee-ul) Blood sugar level before eating.

Prevalence The number of people in a given group or population who are reported to have a disease.

Proinsulin (proh-IN-suh-lin) The substance made first in the pancreas and then broken into several pieces to become insulin.

Protein (PRO-teen) One of the three main nutrients in food. Foods that provide protein may include meat, poultry, fish, cheese, milk, dairy products, eggs and dried beans. Proteins are also used in the body for cell structure, in hormones such as insulin as well as other functions.

Rebound hyperglycemia (HY-per-gly-SEE-mee-ah) A swing to a high level of glucose in the blood after a low level. See Somogyi effect.

Recognized Diabetes Education Programs Diabetes education programs that are approved by the American Diabetes Association.

Renal threshold of glucose (THRESH-hold) The blood sugar concentration at which the kidneys start to excrete glucose into the urine.

Risk factor Anything that raises the chances of a person developing a disease.

Secondary diabetes A type of diabetes caused by another disease or certain drugs or chemicals.

Self-management  In diabetes, this is the ongoing process of a person managing diabetes. This includes meal planning, physical activity, blood sugar monitoring and may also include taking diabetes medications, handling episodes of low and high blood sugar, managing diabetes when traveling and more. The person with diabetes designs his or her own self-management treatment plan with their diabetes care team, which may include physicians, nurses, diabetes educators, dietitians, pharmacists and others.

Sharps container  A container for safe disposal of used needles and syringes. They are often made of hard plastic so that needles cannot puncture the container.

Side effects  The unintended action(s) of a drug.

Sliding scale A set of instructions for adjusting insulin on the basis of blood sugar results, meals or activity levels.

Somogyi (suh-MOH-jee) effect—called rebound hyperglycemia  When blood sugar level swings high following hypoglycemia. The Somogyi effect may follow an untreated or treated hypoglycemic episode and is caused by the release of stress hormones.

Split mixed dose Division of a prescribed daily dose of insulin into two or more injections given over the course of the day.

Subcutaneous injection (sub-kyoo-TAY-nee-us) Putting a fluid into the tissue under the skin with a needle and syringe.

Sucrose  A two-part sugar made of glucose and fructose. Known as table sugar or white sugar, it is found naturally in sugar cane and in beets.

Sugar A class of carbohydrates with a sweet taste, including glucose, fructose and sucrose. 

Sugar alcohols  Sweeteners that may produce a smaller rise in blood sugar than other carbohydrates. Their calorie content is about two calories per gram. Includes erythritol, hydrogenated starch hydrolysates, isomalt, lactitol, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, and xylitol. Also known as polyols (PAH-lee-alls.)

Syringe (suh-RINJ) A device used to inject medications or other liquids into body tissues. The syringe for insulin has a hollow plastic tube with a plunger inside and a needle on the end.

Team management  A diabetes treatment approach in which medical care is provided by a team of health care professionals which may include a physician, a dietitian, a nurse, a diabetes educator and others. The team serves as support to the person with diabetes.

Triglyceride (try-GLISS-er-ide) The storage form of fat in the body. High triglyceride levels may occur when diabetes is not well managed. 

Type 1 diabetes  A condition characterized by high blood sugar levels caused by a lack of insulin. Occurs when the body's immune system attacks the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas and destroys them. The pancreas then produces little or no insulin. Type 1 diabetes develops in both young people and adults.

Type 2 diabetes  A condition characterized by high blood sugar levels caused by either a lack of insulin or the body's inability to use insulin efficiently. Type 2 diabetes develops most often in middle-aged and older adults but can appear in young people.

Ultralente insulin (UL-truh-LEN-tay) Long-acting insulin. On average, ultralente insulin starts to lower blood sugar within four to six hours after injection. It has its strongest effect 10 to 18 hours after injection but keeps working 24 to 28 hours after injection. Also called U insulin.

Unit of insulin The basic measure of insulin. U-100 insulin means 100 units of insulin per milliliter (mL) or cubic centimeter (cc) of solution. Most insulin made today in the United States are U-100.

Urine testing  Also called urinalysis; a test of a urine sample to diagnose diseases of the urinary system and other body systems. Urine may also be checked for signs of bleeding. Some tests use a single urine sample. For others, 24-hour collection may be needed. Sometimes a sample is "cultured" to better evaluate bacteria growth.

Wound care  Steps taken to ensure that a wound heals correctly.