Important Terms for Diabetics

A1C – blood test measuring the average blood glucose over the past few months

Atherosclerosis – blood vessel thickening that can eventually lead to plaque formation; Plaque can block arteries if it continues to accumulate; If any of the plaque ruptures, vessel blockage can worsen due to clot formation

Autoimmune disease – immune system disorder characterized by the immune system attacking and destroying its own body tissue

Basal insulin – the insulin that is constantly needed as a baseline, regardless of whether you have eaten or not

Beta cells – cells that produce insulin located within the pancreatic islets of Langerhans

Blood pressure  represents the pressure against blood vessel walls; Diabetics have a greater incidence of high blood pressure and it increases the chances of developing complications and serious medical conditions like eye disease or stroke

Body mass index (BMI)– a common formula for measuring the relationship of height and weight whether; people are defined as normal weight, overweight, obese or underweight based on BMI

Bolus insulin – insulin released after consuming food;  A bolusis is the term used for a burst of insulin delivered by a diabetic through injection or insulin pump to offset food consumed that leads to a high blood glucose level.

Carbohydrate – a nutrient fuel source for the body that includes sugars and starches; carbs break down into glucose, which is sugar

Charcot foot – a foot deformity that can develop due to nerve damage; a common condition characterized by small foot bones that get out of alignment

Cholesterol – fat type produced in the intestines or liver or intestines; also consumed by eating certain dairy and meat products

Clinical trials – controlled medical studies conducted to test the safety, efficiency and effectiveness of new medical products or techniques; there are 3 phases that must be completed before approval for general use is granted by the government

Conventional insulin therapy – A particular type of insulin therapy where the insulin treatment type is first chosen and then the diabetic eats and exercises based on the injected insulin’s timed action

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA or ketoacidosis) – a diabetic condition resulting from not having enough insulin in the body leading to blood glucose levels that are too high. As the body works to compensate for the abnormalities, ketones form changing the acidity of the blood; a life-threatening condition that can lead to  coma or death

Diabetic macular edema – a medical condition during which fluid accumulates in the retina’s central section leading to blurred vision or even blindness

Fasting blood glucose test –  a particular type of blood test where the doctor draws a blood sample after you fast overnight fast for 8 hours for the purpose of measuring the amount of blood glucose

Gestational diabetes – diabetes type that develops while pregnant and usually resolves after delivery; can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes at a later date

Glucose – a sugar form that results from the body’s digestion process breaking down food into absorbable nutrients; glucose is the primary energy source for the body

Glycemic index (GI) – a ranking system for food that contain the same amounts of carbohydrates based on the amount these foods increase blood glucose levels; used as a component of diabetic meal planning

Glycemic load (GL) –  a ranking system that indicates how foods increase blood glucose levels; uses a combination of the carbohydrate content and GI value of food

Glycogen – glucose stored in the liver and muscles

HDL (good cholesterol or high-density lipoprotein) – the “good” cholesterol sweeps unneeded cholesterol in the blood so it can be returned to the liver for reprocessing or elimination
Hormones – chemical based messengers able to carry essential bloodstream cell information from one part of the body to another; insulin is classified as a hormone

Hyperglycemia  a condition in which a person has high blood glucose levels; high levels are based on specific levels depending on when a person last ate.

Hyperosmolar hyperglycemic state (HHS) – a serious diabetic condition caused from very high blood glucose levels; leads to dehydration and excessive urination

Hypertension – another term for high blood pressure

Hypoglycemia – a condition in which the blood glucose levels are below 70 mg/dl (symptoms may or may not be present)

Impaired fasting glucose (IFG) –  term that refers to a fasting glucose level that measures between 100 mg/dl and 125 mg/dl; indicates prediabetes

Impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) – a blood glucose level that is measured after a 2-hour glucose tolerance test and results in readings between 140 and 199 mg/dl; indicates prediabetes

Infusion set – plastic tubing that is used with an insulin pump

Insulin – a natural hormone manufactured in the pancreas that assists with the transfer of glucose into cells where it can be used for the body’s energy needs

Insulin pen – device that looks like a traditional pen and is used to deliver insulin

Insulin reaction  (hypoglycemia ) – low blood glucose that occurs as a result of some activity including too much insulin, not eating enough food, or too much exercise

Insulin resistance – a condition in which the cells have trouble using insulin

Insulin pump – a delivery system for insulin that is a mechanical device capable of releasing insulin and injecting it into the body via tubing and a needle that remain in place for an extended period of time.

Insulin sensitivity factor   measurement stated in terms of mg/dl that indicates the amount of blood glucose that is lowered by a single (1) unit of insulin

Islet cells – the specific cells that produce insulin found in the pancreas; also referred to as pancreatic beta cells.

Islets of Langerhans – set of cells located in the pancreas; beta cells are the primary manufacturing cells making insulin

Ketones – acids created as a result of there not being enough insulin needed to  process the glucose in the bloodstream; an excessive amount of ketones in the blood is referred to as ketosis; if not treated, ketones and high blood glucose can result in ketoacidosis (DKA).

Ketonuria – condition in which ketones are in the urine.

Ketosis – the excessive formation of ketones in the blood

Lymphocytes – a type of immune system cells responsible for identifying and destroying foreign agents including bacteria and viruses

LDL (low-density lipoprotein or bad cholesterol) – cholesterol in the arteries that accumulates and leads to a higher risk of having stroke or heart attack

Metabolic syndrome –a syndrome is a collection of conditions and metabolic syndrome refers to metabolic conditions that  increase the chances of developing vascular related diseases like stroke or heart disease; the most common conditions include high triglycerides, glucose intolerance, obesity and hypertension

Metabolism – the body’s process in which cells convert food into energy or so that the nutrients can be utilized to build or sustain tissues and cells

Necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum ( NLD) – a potentially disfiguring skin condition due to inflammation; characterized by thinning skin that becomes discolored and also dimples; common to diabetics

Nephropathy – kidneys disease often associated with long term diabetes

Neuropathy – nerve damage of which there are two main types: 1) sensory neuropathy impacting the legs or hands and is also called peripheral, and 2) autonomic neuropath affecting nerves controlling certain organs

Nonproliferative retinopathy – the first stage of developing diabetic retinopathy in which retina blood vessels are damaged

Oral glucose-lowering medications – pills used to assist with control of blood glucose levels

Pancreas – a small gland located below and just behind the stomach that is responsible for manufacturing insulin

Pre-diabetes – a condition that does not warrant a type 2 diabetes diagnosis but a person’s 2 fasting blood sugar levels are higher than normal

Proliferative retinopathy – advanced stage of diabetic retinopathy characterized by a greater loss of vision or maybe blindness; during this stage blood vessels on the retina surface grow abnormally

Protein – an essential nutrient for the body, protein is needed for tissue building and repair and as a secondary source of energy when carbohydrates are not available

Rapid-acting insulin – a particular insulin type that begins to work as soon as 10 minutes and within 30 minutes to lower blood glucose within 10 to 30 minutes and reaches peak performance between 30 minutes and 3 hours after administration

Rebound hyperglycemia  – a diabetic condition in which hormones prompt the liver to release too much glucose in response to a glucose level that is too low

Retinopathy – small blood vessels in the retina damaged by high blood glucose levels, which can lead to blindness if left untreated

Saturated fat – food fat that is solidified at room temperature and can increase cholesterol levels by preventing absorption of cholesterol into cells so the fat contributes to plaque buildup in the bloodstream

Short-acting insulin– type of insulin that starts working within 30 to 60 minutes and is working at full force within 1 to 5 hours after it’s injected

Sugar alcohols or polyols – type of sweeteners that can replace food sugars so blood glucose levels don’t rise as high after consumption

Trans fats – fats resulting from hydrogenation in which chemicals change liquid oils into solid fats and may increase cholesterol levels

Triglycerides – body fat that can be used for energy but too high levels increases the risk of cardiovascular disease

Unsaturated fat (including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) – type of healthy fats that are liquid at room temperature and are found mostly in vegetables; they are healthy fats that can help lower cholesterol levels

This article was originally published July 12, 2012 and last revision and update of it was 9/10/2015.