Diabetes Glossary and Vocabulary Terms

Acesulfame-k
An artificial sweetener used in place of table sugar due to its non-caloric characteristics. It is not metabolized by the body and therefore does not contribute to calories and has contains no carbohydrates. Therefore, it has no effect on blood sugar levels.

Acetone
A chemical formed in the blood when the body breaks down fat instead of glucose for energy. If acetone forms, it usually means the cells are starved. Commonly, the body’s production of acetone is known as “ketosis.” It occurs when there is an absolute or relative deficiency in insulin so sugars cannot be absorbed by cells for energy. Cells will then turn to proteins from muscle and fat from fat cells for its energy source.

Acidosis
Excess acid accumulates in the body where pH drops below 7.35. For diabetics, can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis.

Adrenal glands
Two endocrine glands (pertaining to hormones and the glands that secrete them into he body) that sit atop the kidneys – one each above each kidney – that secrete hormones such as epinephrine (adrenaline) which stimulates carbohydrate metabolism, norepinephrine which raises heart rate and blood pressure, corticosteroid hormones that help the body manage fat, protein, carbohydrates, and minerals – it also helps to reduce inflammation. Adrenal glands also produce and secrete sex hormones like testosterone and progesterone.

Adult-onset diabetes
Synonymous with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus.

Albuminuria
When excessive amounts of albumin, a protein, are present in the urine. Can be a sign of kidney disease which can be triggered by Type 1 Diabetes. Type 2 Diabetics may already show signs of albuminuria which can result from high blood pressure. Protein in the urine increases the probability of a diabetic having renal disease. It also increases the chances of cardiovascular disease.

Alpha cell
A type of cell located in the Islets of Langerhans in he pancreas. Alpha cells produce and release glucagon, a hormone, which increases glucose levels in the blood by releasing stored sugar from the liver.

Antidiabetic agent
A substance that manages glucose levels in the blood.

Artery
A major blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain and heart. Diabetes can damage arteries which facilitates the buildup of fatty deposits which, in turn, can lead to heart attacks and stroke.

Artificial pancreas
A glucose sensor that identifies the body glucose level and releases, if necessary, requisite amounts of insulin needed.

Atherosclerosis
A disease of the arteries caused by deposits of cholesterol, known as plaque, in the walls of arteries. Plaque can narrow arteries thus reducing blood flow to the brain and heart and they can break off and float in the bloodstream potentially causing strokes.

Background retinopathy
Damage to the eye’s retina where there is bleeding, buildup of fluid, and blood vessel dilation. It’s the early stage of diabetic retinopathy but it does not cause vision loss.

Basal rate
A slow trickle, flow or supply of low levels of longer-acting insulin.

Beta cell
Produce and secrete insulin and located in the Islets of Langerhans in the pancreas. Insulin manages glucose levels in the blood.

Biosynthetic insulin
Bio-engineered human insulin that carries a lower risk of allergic reactions for diabetics. Cow (bovine) or pork (porcine) insulin may carry a higher risk of allergic reactions. Biosynthetic insulin is short acting form which helps people adjust to temporary spikes in insulin levels, i.e., at mealtime.

Blood glucose monitoring or testing
A type of test indicating the amount of glucose is in the bloodstream.

Blood pressure
Refers to the amount of pressure the blood exerts as it passes through the walls of the arteries. Arteries supply blood to the heart and brain. It is recorded using two numbers: the systolic, or higher, pressure occurs each time the heart pushes blood into the arteries and the second is called diastolic pressure which occurs when the heart rests.

Brittle diabetes
Is diagnosed when a diabetic’s blood glucose level shifts quickly.

Blood urea nitrogen (BUN)
A blood test that tests kidney function. If the kidney does not filter blood properly, there will be excess creatinine and, of course, urea.

Calorie
Chemical energy in food. Calories as they relate to diabetes should be counted if they can be used by the body.

Carbohydrate
Carbohydrates are sugars, starches and fibers that the body breaks down into glucose in order to feed the cells. Its the source of energy for the body.

Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE)
A healthcare professional, certified by the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE), that teaches diabetics to manage their condition.

Cholesterol
A waxy, odorless fat produced by the liver and secreted to the blood. The body uses cholesterol to manufacture hormones and to build the walls of cells. Good cholesterol – HDL – protects the heart and lowers LDL. LDL, or low density lipoproteins, can cause heart disease by increasing plaque buildup in arteries.

Coma
A state of human unconsciousness which can affect diabetics with abnormally high or low blood glucose levels.

Dawn phenomenon
A rise in blood glucose levels in the early morning hours after waking.

Dehydration
Large loss of body water. High blood sugar levels in diabetics can cause increased water loss through increased urination. Symptoms are thirst.

Diabetes
See Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus below.

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA)
A severe, life-threatening condition that results from high blood sugar levels – also known as hyperglycemia – dehydration, and acid build. Emergency treatment is typically recommended. DKA occurs when there are near deficient levels of insulin in the blood along with elevated stress hormones. More common in Type 1 Diabetes than in Type 2.

Exchange lists
A way to group foods by type that assists people on special diets. Each group lists food in a serving size so food servings can be exchanged for another food serving in another group relative to carbohydrate, protein, fat, and calories. The food types are: starch/bread, meat, vegetables, fruit, milk and fats.

Fasting blood glucose test
A method of finding out how much glucose or sugar is present in the blood after fasting for 8 hours.

Fats
Food substances that are the main energy storage mechanisms in the body. The types of fats are: saturated, unsaturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, and trans fats.

Fructose
Sugar found in many fruits, vegetables and honey. Fructose seems to have a negative effect on the body where high levels can cause obesity or diabetes.

Gangrene
The death of body tissues typically caused by a lack of blood to legs and feet.

Gastroparesis
Nerve damage that causes food to not be digested properly which can significantly alter blood sugar levels. Specifically, food does not move through the stomach and intestinal tract normally and so nutrients are not properly absorbed. Diarrhea and chronic constipation can also occur.

Gestational diabetes mellitus
Gestational diabetes, in simplified form, is Type Two (2) Diabetes Mellitus that occurs in women during pregnancy. For reasons many do not understand, the pancreas either fails to produce enough insulin or the body fails to respond to insulin secretions. Gestational diabetes affects 2-5% of pregnant women and can improve or even disappear after pregnancy.

Glaucoma
An eye disease associated with increased pressure within the eye which is caused by a reduction in fluid outflow. Reduced vision and even blindness can result.

Glucagon
A hormone that raises the level of glucose levels in the blood by releasing stored glucose from the liver. Glucagon can be injected into an consciousness person if that person has low blood sugar.

Glucose
The main carbohy6drate fuel (energy) in the blood.

Glucose tolerance test
A test to determine if a person has diabetes. The test is typically performed in doctor’s office before the person has eaten. A sample of blood is first taken then a liquid drink is ingested that contains glucose. Two hours later, a second blood test is performed and if the results indicate abnormal yet not high enough glucose levels to be considered diabetic, the diagnosis is usually glucose intolerance.

Glycated hemoglobin test (HbA1c)
Determine effective (or ineffective) management of diabetes. Hemoglobin is a substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen to tissues. It can also attach to sugar in the blood forming a substance called glycated hemoglobin or a Hemoglobin A1C. The test provides an average blood glucose measurement over a 6-12 week period and is used in conjunction with home glucose monitoring to make treatment adjustments. The ideal range for people with diabetes is generally less than 7%.

High blood pressure
A condition when the blood flows through the blood vessels at a force greater than the average blood flow of the population. High blood pressure can strain the heart, damage arteries and the kidneys.

Home blood glucose monitoring
A test that indicates the level of glucose (sugar) in the blood.

Hormone
A chemical released by an endocrine gland or tissue that effects other tissues (body functions). For example, insulin is a hormone made by the beta cells in the pancreas that, when released, triggers other cells to use glucose for energy.

Human insulin
Manmade, bio-engineered insulin identical to insulin produced by the body. Available since 1982.

Hyperglycemia
High, above average blood glucose levels. Common amongst diabetics.

Hypoglycemia
Lower than average blood glucose levels. Common amongst diabetics where there’s too much insulin and not enough glucose.

Impotence
Persistent inability of the penis to become erect or stay erect. Diabetic men can experience impotence due to nerve damage or blood vessel impairment in the penis.

Injection site rotation
Changing or rotating the areas on the body where diabetics inject their insulin.

Insulin
A hormone produced by the pancreas in the Islets of Langerhans that helps the body process glucose for cell energy.

Insulin pump
A small, computerized device – about the size of a small cellphone – that releases a steady flow of insulin into the body.

Insulin reaction
Also called hypoglycemia. Occurs when a diabetic injects too much insulin, eaten too little or has exercised without ingesting a sufficient amount of food.

Insulin receptors
Areas on the outer part of a cell that allow insulin in the blood to join or bind with the cell thus allowing the cell to absorb glucose for energy.

Insulin resistance
When insulin does not do its job properly. Can occur in overweight people and even with high daily doses of insulin.

Insulin shock
A alarming condition that occurs when the level of blood glucose drops sharply.

Intermittent claudication
Pain in the muscles of the legs that is regular yet sporadic. Can occur while walking or exercising and is caused by atherosclerosis of the blood vessels.

Jet injector
A device that leverages the effect of increased pressure to inject insulin into the body.

Ketone bodies
Often simply called ketones, but technically not ketones at all, are products of fat burning in the body. When there is not enough insulin to process blood sugars, the body begins the process of breaking down its own fat and protein for energy in the absence of glucose. When fat is used, ketone bodies, an acid, appear in your urine and blood.

Kidney disease (nephropathy)
Nephropathy in diabetics is damage to the small blood vessels in the kidneys. Scarring of the kidneys can occur which can lead to kidney failure.

Lancet
A fine, sharp pointed needle used for pricking the skin to monitor blood glucose levels.

Laser treatment
The use of a strong beam of light (laser) to heal a damaged area or, in diabetics, perhaps to heal blood vessels in the eye.

Lipid
Fat or a fat-like substance in the blood.

Metabolism
All of the physical and chemical processes in the body that use food to create energy for proper cell functions.

Mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter)
For diabetics, indicates the amount of glucose given a deciliter of blood.

Mixed dose
A prescribed dose of insulin where regular insulin (quick acting) is combined with longer-acting insulin then injected at once.

Nephropathy
See Kidney Disease.

Neuropathy
Nerve damage. Specific to diabetics, nerve damage can occur if the condition is not maintained.

Obesity
Obesity, or having more weight than is best – an obvious subjective term – helps to make the body less sensitive to insulin.

Pancreas
An organ in the abdomen that produces chemicals that aid in digestion. It also manufactures insulin which breaks down glucose for cell energy.

Peak action
When the effect of something is at its strongest, i.e., when insulin has the most effect in lowering blood glucose levels.

Periodontal disease
Damage to the gums and tissues around the teeth. Diabetics can be prone to periodontal disease.

Peripheral vascular disease (PVD)
Diabetics can develop PVD which affects the blood vessels outside the heart due to decreased blood flow and narrowing of the arteries from atherosclerosis.

Polydipsia
Excessive thirst can be a sign of diabetes.

Polyphagia
Excessive hunger and eating which can be a sign of diabetes. People with polyphagia often lose weight.

Polyunsaturated fat
A type of fat that contains low amounts of hydrogen which can reduce the risk of heart disease. Comes from plants such as safflower, soybean, sunflower and corn.

Polyuria
The need to urinate often; common in diabetics.

Protein
Proteins are made of amino acids, considered to be the building blocks of the body’s cells. They strengthen bones and cells. Insulin is a protein.

Regular insulin
A type of insulin that is quick to act, referred to as rapid-acting.

Retina
Membrane lining the inside of the back of the eye with nerves that detect light. It converts the light into electrical signals which are sent to the brain which converts them to images.

Retinopathy
In diabetics, it damages the tissues in back of the eye and the blood vessels that supply nourishment to them. Blindness can ultimately occur.

Saccharin
An artificial sweetener that is used in place of sugar because it has no calories and does not increase blood glucose. It is 500 times sweeter, though, and has no nutritional value.

Somogyi effect
A sudden swing from low to high levels of blood glucose.

Sorbitol
An alcohol-sugar used slowly by the body that is manufactured from fruits such as apples, pears, peaches and prunes. Also referred to as glucitol and known to be sugar-free, it is also a sugar produced by diabetics that can harm eyes and nerves.

Sucrose
Table sugar.

Sugar
A carbohydrate that has a sweet taste. It is a chief component for body cells and also provides a quick energy boost to the body. Sugar types are glucose, fructose, sucrose and lactose.

Sulfonylureas
Ingested pills and capsules that induce the pancreas to produce insulin which lowers blood glucose levels.

Triglyceride
Is a normal type of fat but like anything, too much of it can be harmful. In this case, too many triglycerides can cause heart disease and atherosclerosis.

Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus
Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus occurs when a person permanently loses the ability to produce insulin or has become insulin-dependent. Specifically, the islets of Langerhans – located in the pancreas – lose the beta cells which produce insulin. Without insulin, glucose levels rise causing sugar diabetes. The chief cause of this beta cell loss is an autoimmune attack. Type One (1) Diabetes Mellitus is irreversible and has no connection to diet or exercise.

Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus
Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus is also referred to as adult-onset diabetes, maturity-onset diabetes, or non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus. The pancreas maintains the ability to keep producing insulin but one of three conditinos can occur: defective insulin secretions, insulin resistance or reduced insulin sensitivity. Reduced insulin sensitivity seems to lead all causes due to obesity, the leading cause of Type Two (2) diabetes mellitus. Fat around the waist secretes hormones (adipokines) that almost makes obese people allergic to glucose. As a result, insulin levels increase and oral medication becomes the preferred treatment.

Ulcer – Skin
A break in the skin, mostly in the foot in diabetics. Ulcers are treatable but if left untreated, can lead to diabetic neuropathy, structural foot deformity, peripheral arterial occlusive disease (hardening of the arteries, formation of blood clots) and ultimately foot amputation.

Ultralente insulin
Long-acting insulin.

Unit of insulin
The accepted measure of insulin. U-100 is the most common insulin made in the United States and is defined as 100 units of insulin per milliliter (ml) of liquid.

Urine testing
A paper test that checks for glucose and ketones in the urine.

Urologist
A doctor specializing in the treatment and disease of the urinary tract for both men and women. Urologists also treat male genital organs.

Vaginitis
Female diabetics may experience inflammation or infection of the vaginal tissues more often than non-diabetics.

Vascular
A term relating to anything having to do with arteries, veins and capillaries – all of the blood vessels of the body.

Vein
A blood vessel that carries blood TOWARD the heart. In contrast, an artery carries blood AWAY from the heart.

Vitrectomy
A medical procedure involving the eye where the vitreous humor (a fluid) is removed because it contains harmful amounts of blood and scar tissue. The vitreous humor is then replaced with a clear saline solution.

Xylitol
A sugar-alcohol, nutritive sweetener and low calorie substitute that is used primarily in dietary foods because it is absorbed at a slower pace by the body. Found in endive, lettuce, and raspberries. Does not cause tooth decay.

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