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The Diabetes Center offers information about the following diabetes-related terms:
AICA test that measures a person’s average blood glucose level over two to three months. Also called hemoglobin AIC 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.
Antibodies (AN-ti-bod-eez)Proteins made by the body to protect itself from foreign substances such as bacteria or viruses. People get type 1 diabetes when their bodies make antibodies that destroy the body’s insulin-making beta cells.
Autoimmune disease (AW-toh-ih- MYOON) A 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 insulin Constant delivery of ““background insulin.”“ The body needs insulin even when not eating. A pump delivers a constant drip of insulin that serves as basal insulin. Also, long-acting insulin can provide a source of basal insulin.
Beta cellA cell that makes insulin. Beta cells are located in the islets of the pancreas.
Blood glucoseThe main sugar found in the blood and the body’s main source of energy. Also called blood sugar.
Blood glucose meterA small, portable machine used by people with diabetes to check their blood glucose levels. After pricking the skin with a lancet, the user places a drop of blood on a test strip in the machine. The meter (or monitor) soon displays the blood glucose level as a number on the meter’s digital display.
Blood glucose monitoringChecking blood glucose level on regular basis to manage diabetes. A blood glucose meter (or blood glucose test strips that change color when touched by a blood sample) is needed for frequent blood glucose monitoring.
Bolus (BOH-lus)See Food bolus.
Borderline diabetesA former term for type 2 diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance.
C-peptide "Connecting peptide," a substance the pancreas releases into the bloodstream in equal amounts to insulin. A test of C-peptide levels shows how much insulin the body is making.
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.
Carbohydrate counting A method of meal planning for people with diabetes, based on counting the number of grams of carbohydrate in food.
Complications Harmful effects of diabetes such as damage to the eyes, heart, blood vessels, nervous system, teeth and gums, feet and skin, or kidneys. Studies show that keeping blood glucose, blood pressure, and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels close to normal can help prevent or delay these problems.
Correction factor Used to correct a high blood sugar. This factor is based on how much one unit of insulin will lower a person’s blood sugar. This is an individual ratio for each person.
Dextrose, also called glucose (DECKS-trohss) A simple sugar found in blood that serves as the body’s main source of energy.
Diabetes educator A healthcare professional who teaches people with diabetes how to manage their illness. Some diabetes educators are certified diabetes educators (CDEs). Diabetes educators are found in hospitals, physician’s offices, managed care organizations, home healthcare and other settings.
Diabetes mellitus (MELL-ih-tus)A condition characterized by hyperglycemia resulting from the body’s inability to use blood glucose for energy. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas no longer makes insulin; blood glucose cannot enter the cells to be used for energy. In type 2 diabetes, either the pancreas does not make enough insulin or the body is unable to correctly use insulin.
Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) (KEY-toe-ass-ih-DOH-sis)An emergency condition in which extremely high blood glucose levels, along with a severe lack of insulin, result in breakdown of body fat for energy and an accumulation of ketones in the blood and urine. Signs of DKA are nausea and vomiting, stomach pain, fruity breath odor and rapid breathing. Untreated DKA can lead to coma and death.
Diabetologist (DY-uh-beh-TAH-luh-jist)A doctor who specializes in treating people with diabetes.
Dietitian (DY-eh-TIH-shun)A healthcare professional who advises people about meal planning, weight control and diabetes management. A registered dietitian (RD) has additional training in these subjects.
Endocrine gland (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.
Euglycemia (you-gly-SEEM-ee-uh) A normal level of glucose in the blood.
Exchange lists One of several approaches for diabetes meal planning. 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 glucose level after the person has not eaten for eight to 12 hours (usually overnight). This test is used to diagnose pre-diabetes and diabetes. It is also used to monitor people with diabetes.
Fat One of the three main nutrients in food. Foods that provide fat include 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.
Food bolus Also known as on-demand or rapid-acting insulin, this type of insulin covers food and corrects for high blood sugar.
Fructose (FROOK-tohss) A sugar that occurs naturally in fruits and honey. Fructose has 4 calories per gram.
Gland A group of cells that secrete substances. Endocrine glands secrete hormones. Exocrine glands secrete salt, enzymes and water.
Glargine insulin (GLAR-jeen) Very-long-acting insulin. On average, glargine insulin starts to lower blood glucose levels within one hour after injection and keeps working evenly for 24 hours after injection. It is also called Lantus insulin.
Glucagon (GLOO-kah-gahn) A hormone produced by the alpha cells in the pancreas. It raises blood glucose. An injectable form of glucagon, available by prescription, may be used to treat severe hypoglycemia. (Glucagon emergency kit)
Glucose One of the simplest forms of sugar.
Glucose tablets Chewable tablets made of pure glucose, used for treating hypoglycemia.
Gram A unit of weight in the metric system. An ounce equals 28 grams. In some meal plans for people with diabetes, the suggested amounts of food are given in grams.
Honeymoon phase Temporary remission of hyperglycemia that occurs in some people newly diagnosed with type I diabetes, when some insulin secretion resumes for a short time (usually a few months) before stopping again.
Hormone A chemical produced in one part of the body and released into the blood to trigger or regulate particular bodily functions. For example, insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas that tells other cells when to use glucose for energy. Synthetic hormones, made for use as medicines, can be the same or different from those made in the body.
Humalog See lispro insulin.
Hyperglycemia (HY-per-gly-SEE-mee-uh) Excessive blood glucose. Fasting hyperglycemia is blood glucose above a desirable level after a person has fasted for at least eight hours. Postprandial hyperglycemia is blood glucose above a desirable level one to two hours after a person has eaten.
Hypoglycemia (hy-po-gly-SEE-mee-uh) A condition that occurs when blood sugar is lower than normal. Also called an insulin reaction. See low blood sugar section.
IDDM (insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus) Former term for type 1 diabetes.
Impaired fasting glucose (IFG) A condition in which a blood glucose test, taken after an eight- to 12-hour fast, shows a level of glucose higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. IFG, also called pre-diabetes, is a level of 110 mg / dl to 125 gm / dl. Most people with pre-diabetes are at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
Impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) A condition in which blood glucose levels are higher than normal but are not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. IGT, also called pre-diabetes, is a level of 140 mg / dl to 199 mg / dl hours after the start of an oral glucose tolerance test. Most people with pre-diabetes are at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Other names for IGT that are no longer used are “borderline,” “subclinical,” “chemical” or “latent” diabetes.
Injection (in-JEK-shun) Inserting liquid medication or nutrients into the body with a syringe. A person with diabetes may use short needles or pinch the skin and inject at an angle to avoid an intramuscular injection of insulin.
Injection site rotation Changing the places on the body where insulin is injected. Rotation prevents the formation of lipodystrophies.
Injection sites Places on the body where insulin is usually injected.
Insulin A hormone that helps the body use glucose for energy. The beta cells of the pancreas make insulin. When the body cannot make enough insulin, it is taken by injection or through use of an insulin pump.
Insulin adjustment A change in the amount of insulin a person with diabetes takes, based on factors such as meal planning, activity and blood glucose levels.
Insulin pen A device for injecting insulin that looks like a fountain pen and holds replaceable cartridges of insulin. Insulin pens are also available in disposable form.
Insulin pump An insulin-delivering device about the size of a deck of cards that can be worn on a belt or kept in a pocket. An insulin pump connects to narrow, flexible plastic tubing that ends with a needle inserted just under the skin. Users set the pump to provide a steady trickle, or basal amount, of insulin (several units at a time) at meals and at times when blood glucose is too high, based on programming done by the user.
Juvenile diabetes Former term for insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) or type 1 diabetes.
Ketone A chemical produced when there is a shortage of insulin in the blood and the body breaks down body fat for energy. High levels of ketones can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis and coma. 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.
Ketosis (ke-TOE-sis) A ketone buildup in the body that may lead to diabetic ketoacidosis. Signs of ketosis are nausea, vomiting and stomach pain.
Kidneys The two bean-shaped organs that filter wastes from the blood and form urine, located near the middle of the back. They send urine to the bladder.
Lancet A spring-loaded device used to prick the skin with a small needle to obtain a drop of blood for blood glucose monitoring.
Lantus insulin See Glargine insulin.
Lispro insulin (LYZ-proh) A rapid-acting insulin. On average, lispro insulin starts to lower blood glucose within five minutes after injection. It has its strongest effect 30 minutes to one hour after injection but keeps working for three hours after injection. Also known as Humalog.
Long-acting insulin A type of insulin that starts to lower blood glucose within four to six hours after injection. It has its strongest effect 10 to 18 hours after injection. See ultralente insulin.
Metformin (met-FOR-min) An oral medicine used to treat type 2 diabetes. It lowers blood glucose by reducing the amount of glucose produced by the liver and helping the body respond better to the insulin made in the pancreas. Metformin belongs to the class of medicines called biguanides (Brand names: Glucophage, Glucophage XR, an ingredient in Glucovance).
Mixed dose A combination of two types of insulin in one injection. Typically, a rapid- or short-acting insulin is combined with a longer-acting insulin (such as NPH insulin) to provide both short-term and long-term control of blood glucose levels.
NPH insulin An intermediate-acting insulin; NPH stands for neutral protamine Hagedorn. On average, NPH insulin starts to lower blood glucose within one to two hours after injection. It has its strongest effect six to 10 hours after injection but keeps working about 10 hours after injection. It is also called N insulin.
Nutritionist (noo-TRIH-shuh-nist) A person with training in nutrition; he or she may or may not have specialized training and qualifications. See dietitian.
Ophthalmologist (AHF-thal-MAH-Iuh-jist) A medical doctor who diagnoses and treats eye diseases and disorders. Ophthalmologists can also prescribe glasses and contact lenses.
Pancreas (PAN-kree-us) The organ that makes insulin and enzymes for digestion. The pancreas is behind the lower part of the stomach and is about the size of a hand.
Postprandial blood glucose (post-PRAN-dee-ul) The blood glucose level taken one to two hours after eating.
Premixed insulin A commercially produced combination of two different types of insulin. For example, 50 / 50 insulin and 70 / 30 insulin.
Preprandial blood glucose (pree-PRAN-dee-ul) The blood glucose level taken before eating.
Protein (PRO-teen) One of the three main nutrients in food. Foods that provide protein include meat, poultry, fish, cheese, milk, dairy products, eggs and dried beans. Proteins are also used in the body for cell structure, hormones such as insulin and other functions.
Rapid-acting insulin A type of insulin that starts to lower blood glucose within five to 10 minutes after injection and has its strongest effect 30 minutes to three hours after injection, depending on the type used. See aspart insulin (Novolog) and lispro insulin (Humalog).
Rebound hyperglycemia (HY-per-gly-SEE-mee-ah) A swing to a high level of glucose in the blood after a low level.
Recognized Diabetes Education Programs Diabetes self-management education programs that are approved by the American Diabetes Association.
Short-acting insulin. On average, regular insulin starts to lower blood glucose within 30 minutes after injection. It has its strongest effect two to five hours after injection. Also called R insulin.
Self-management In diabetes, this refers to the ongoing process of managing diabetes. It includes meal planning, planned physical activity, blood glucose monitoring, taking diabetes medicines, handling episodes of illness and of low and high blood glucose, managing diabetes when traveling, and more. The person with diabetes designs his or her own self-management treatment plan in consultation with a variety of healthcare professionals such as doctors, nurses, dietitians, pharmacists and others.
Sharps container A container for disposal of used needles and syringes; often made of hard plastic so that needles cannot poke through.
Short-acting insulin A type of insulin that starts to lower blood glucose within 30 minutes after injection and has its strongest effect two to five hours after injection. See regular insulin.
Split mixed dose Division of a prescribed daily dose of insulin into two or more injections given over the course of the day.
Sugar A class of carbohydrates with a sweet taste, including glucose, fructose and sucrose. A term used to refer to blood glucose.
Sugar diabetes Former term for diabetes mellitus.
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 healthcare professionals including a doctor, a dietitian, a nurse, a diabetes educator and others. The team acts as advisers to the person with diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes A condition characterized by high blood glucose levels caused by a total lack of insulin. It 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 I diabetes develops most often in young people but can appear in adults.
Type 2 diabetes A condition characterized by high blood glucose 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 glucose 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.
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