Diabetes Dictionary





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Fasting blood glucose test 

a check of a person’s blood glucose level after the person has not eaten for 8 to 12 hours (usually overnight). This test is used to diagnose pre-diabetes and diabetes. It is also used to monitor people with diabetes.


one of the three main nutrients in food. Foods that provide fat are butter, margarine, salad dressing, oil, nuts, meat, poultry, fish and some dairy products. 2. Excess calories are stored as body fat, providing the body with a reserve supply of energy and other functions.

Fructose (FROOK-tohss)

a sugar that occurs naturally in fruits and honey. Fructose has 4 calories per gram.

Gangrene (GANG-green)

the death of body tissue, most often caused by a lack of blood flow and infection. It can lead to amputation.

Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) (jes-TAY-shun-ul MELL-ih-tus)

a type of diabetes mellitus that develops only during pregnancy and usually disappears upon delivery, but increases the risk that the mother will develop diabetes later. GDM is managed with meal planning, activity, and, in some cases, insulin.

Gingivitis (JIN-jih-VY-tis)

a condition of the gums characterized by inflammation and bleeding.


a group of cells that secrete substances. Endocrine glands secrete hormones. Exocrine glands secrete salt, enzymes and water.

Glaucoma (glaw-KOH-muh)

an increase in fluid pressure inside the eye that may lead to loss of vision.

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.


one of the simplest forms of sugar.

Glucose tablets 

chewable tablets made of pure glucose used for treating hypoglycemia.

Glycemic index (gly-SEE-mik)

a ranking of carbohydrate-containing foods, based on the food’s effect on blood glucose compared with a standard reference food.

Glycogen (GLY-koh-jen)

the form of glucose found in the liver and muscles.


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.

HDL cholesterol, stands for high-density-lipoprotein cholesterol (kuh-LESS-tuh-rawl LIP-oh-PRO-teen)

a fat found in the blood that takes extra cholesterol from the blood to the liver for removal. Sometimes called “good” cholesterol.


the passing of a trait from parent to child.

Honeymoon phase 

Some people with type 1 diabetes experience a brief remission called the “honeymoon period.” During this time their pancreas may still secrete some insulin. Over time, this secretion stops and as this happens, the person will require more insulin from injections. The honeymoon period can last weeks, months, or even up to a year or more.


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

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 8 hours. Postprandial hyperglycemia is blood glucose above a desirable level 1 to 2 hours after a person has eaten.

Hypertension (HY-per-TEN-shun)

a condition present when blood flows through the blood vessels with a force greater than normal. Also called high blood pressure. Hypertension can strain the heart, damage blood vessels, and increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney problems and death.

Hypoglycemia (hy-po-gly-SEE-mee-uh)

a condition that occurs when one’s blood glucose is lower than normal, usually less than 70 mg/dL. Signs 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. It may also be treated with an injection of glucagon if the person is unconscious or unable to swallow. Also called 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.

Hypotension (hy-poh-TEN-shun)

low blood pressure or a sudden drop in blood pressure. Hypotension may occur when a person rises quickly from a sitting or reclining position, causing dizziness or fainting.

IDDM (insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus)

former term for Type 1 diabetes.

Immune system (ih-MYOON)

the body’s system for protecting itself from viruses and bacteria or any “foreign” substances.

Immunosuppressant (ih-MYOON-oh-suh-PRESS-unt)

a drug that suppresses the natural immune responses. Immunosuppressants are given to transplant patients to prevent organ rejection or to patients with autoimmune diseases.

Impaired fasting glucose (IFG) 

a condition in which a blood glucose test, taken after an 8- 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 100 mg/dL to 125 mg/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 2 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.

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.

Impotence (IM-po-tents)

the inability to get or maintain an erection for sexual activity. Also called erectile (ee-REK-tile) dysfunction (dis-FUNK-shun).

Incontinence (in-KON-tih-nents)

loss of bladder or bowel control; the accidental loss of urine or feces.

Inhaled insulin 

an experimental treatment for taking insulin using a portable device that allows a person to breathe in insulin.

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.


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 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 looks like a fountain pen and holds replaceable cartridges of insulin. 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 give a steady trickle or basal amount of insulin continuously throughout the day. Pumps release bolus doses 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.

Insulin reaction 

when the level of glucose in the blood is too low (at or below 70 mg/dL). Also known as hypoglycemia.

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.

Intensive therapy 

a treatment for diabetes in which blood glucose is kept as close to normal as possible through frequent injections or use of an insulin pump; meal planning; adjustment of medicines; and exercise based on blood glucose test results and frequent contact with a person’s health care team.

Intermediate-acting insulin 

a type of insulin that starts to lower blood glucose within 1 to 2 hours after injection and has its strongest effect 6 to 12 hours after injection, depending on the type used. See lente insulin and NPH insulin.

Jet injector (in-JEK-tur)

a device that uses high pressure instead of a needle to propel insulin through the skin and into the body.

Juvenile diabetes 

former term for insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM), or Type 1 diabetes.


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.

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.

Kidney failure 

a chronic condition in which the body retains fluid and harmful wastes build up because the kidneys no longer work properly. A person with kidney failure needs dialysis or a kidney transplant. Also called end-stage renal (REE-nul) disease or ESRD.


the two bean-shaped organs that filter wastes from the blood and form urine. The kidneys are located near the middle of the back. They send urine to the bladder.

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