Diabetes Dictionary

To have better control over your diabetes means educating yourself about diabetes and the many related medical and management terms.

Diabetic Nation has assembled these important-to-know words in an online diabetes dictionary. This diabetes dictionary has been adapted from the Diabetes Dictionary from the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse and childrenwithdiabetes.com

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A1C
a test that measures a person’s average blood glucose level over the past 2 to 3 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.

ACE inhibitor
an oral medicine that lowers blood pressure; ACE stands for angiotensin (an-gee-oh-TEN-sin) converting enzyme. For people with diabetes, especially those who have protein (albumin) in the urine, it also helps slow down kidney damage.

Adult-onset diabetes
former term for Type 2 diabetes.

Blood glucose
the main sugar found in the blood and the body’s main source of energy. Also called blood sugar.

Blood glucose level
the amount of glucose in a given amount of blood. It is noted in milligrams in a deciliter, or mg/dL.

Blood glucose meter
a small, portable machine used by people with diabetes to check their blood glucose levels. After pricking the skin with a lancet, one 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 monitoring
checking blood glucose level on a regular basis in order 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.

Blood pressure
the force of blood exerted on the inside walls of blood vessels. Blood pressure is expressed as a ratio (example: 120/80, read as “120 over 80”). The first number is the systolic (sis-TAH-lik) pressure, or the pressure when the heart pushes blood out into the arteries. The second number is the diastolic (DY-uh-STAH-lik) pressure, or the pressure when the heart rests.

Borderline diabetes
a former term for Type 2 diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance.

Brittle diabetes
a term used when a person’s blood glucose level moves often 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.

Carbohydrate counting
a method of meal planning for people with diabetes based on counting the number of grams of carbohydrate in food.

Cardiologist (kar-dee-AH-luh-jist)
a doctor who treats people who have heart problems.

Certified diabetes educator (CDE)
a health care professional with expertise in diabetes education who has met eligibility requirements and successfully completed a certification exam.

Cholesterol (koh-LES-ter-all)
a type of fat produced by the liver and found in the blood; it is also found in some foods. Cholesterol is used by the body to make hormones and build cell walls.

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

Circulation
the flow of blood through the body’s blood vessels and heart.

Coma
a sleep-like state in which a person is not conscious. May be caused by hyperglycemia (high blood glucose) or hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) in people with diabetes.

Combination therapy
the use of different medicines together (oral hypoglycemic agents or an oral hypoglycemic agent and insulin) to manage the blood glucose levels of people with Type 2 diabetes.

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.

Congenital defects (kun-JEN-ih-tul)
problems or conditions that are present at birth.

Congestive heart failure
loss of the heart’s pumping power, which causes fluids to collect in the body, especially in the feet and lungs.

Conventional therapy
a term used in clinical trials where one group receives treatment for diabetes in which A1C and blood glucose levels are kept at levels based on current practice guidelines. However, the goal is not to keep blood glucose levels as close to normal as possible, as is done in intensive therapy. Conventional therapy includes use of medication, meal planning and exercise, along with regular visits to health care providers.

Coronary heart disease (KOR-uh-ner-ee)
heart disease caused by narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to the heart. If the blood supply is cut off, the result is a heart attack.

Dehydration (dee-hy-DRAY-shun)
the loss of too much body fluid through frequent urinating, sweating, diarrhea or vomiting.

Desensitization (dee-sens-ih-tiz-A-shun)
a way to reduce or stop a response such as an allergic reaction to something. For example, if someone has an allergic reaction to something, the doctor gives the person a very small amount of the substance at first to increase one’s tolerance. Over a period of time, larger doses are given until the person is taking the full dose. This is one way to help the body get used to the full dose and to prevent the allergic reaction.

Dextrose, also called glucose (DECKS-trohss)
simple sugar found in blood that serves as the body’s main source of energy.

Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT)
a study by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, conducted from 1983 to 1993 in people with Type 1 diabetes. The study showed that intensive therapy compared to conventional therapy significantly helped prevent or delay diabetes complications. Intensive therapy included multiple daily insulin injections or the use of an insulin pump with multiple blood glucose readings each day. Complications followed in the study included diabetic retinopathy, neuropathy and nephropathy.

Diabetes educator
a health care professional who teaches people who have diabetes how to manage their diabetes. Some diabetes educators are certified diabetes educators (CDEs). Diabetes educators are found in hospitals, physician offices, managed care organizations, home health care and other settings.

Diabetes insipidus (in-SIP-ih-dus)
a condition characterized by frequent and heavy urination, excessive thirst and an overall feeling of weakness. This condition may be caused by a defect in the pituitary gland or in the kidney. In diabetes insipidus, blood glucose levels are normal.

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 and therefore 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 use insulin correctly.

Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP)
a study by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases conducted from 1998 to 2001 in people at high risk for Type 2 diabetes. All study participants had impaired glucose tolerance, also called pre-diabetes, and were overweight. The study showed that people who lost 5 to 7 percent of their body weight through a low-fat, low-calorie diet and moderate exercise (usually walking for 30 minutes 5 days a week) reduced their risk of getting Type 2 diabetes by 58 percent. Participants who received treatment with the oral diabetes drug metformin reduced their risk of getting Type 2 diabetes by 31 percent.

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

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

Dialysis (dy-AL-ih-sis)
the process of cleaning wastes from the blood artificially. This job is normally done by the kidneys. If the kidneys fail, the blood must be cleaned artificially with special equipment. The two major forms of dialysis are hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis.

Dietitian (DY-eh-TIH-shun)
a health care professional who advises people about meal planning, weight control and diabetes management. A registered dietitian (RD) has more training.

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.

Endocrinologist (EN-doh-krih-NAH-luh-jist)
a doctor who treats people who have endocrine gland problems 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.

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