Below is a list of diabetes-related terms and their definitions. Use the letter groupings to jump to words beginning with those letters. Adapted from NIDDK.
A-E | F-K | L-R | -Z
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.
acute describes something that happens suddenly and for a short time. Opposite of chronic. .
albuminuria (al-BYOO-mih-NOO-ree-uh) a condition in which the urine has more than normal amounts of a protein called albumin. Albuminuria may be a sign of nephropathy (kidney disease).
amyotrophy (a-my-AH-truh-fee) a Type of neuropathy resulting in pain, weakness and/or wasting in the muscles.
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 own insulin-making beta cells.
ARB an oral medicine that lowers blood pressure; ARB stands for angiotensin (an-gee-oh-TEN-sin) receptor blocker.
arteriosclerosis (ar-TEER-ee-oh-skluh-RO-sis) hardening of the arteries. aspart insulin (ASS-part) a rapid-acting insulin. On average, aspart insulin starts to lower blood glucose within 10 to 20 minutes after injection. It has its strongest effect 1 to 3 hours after injection but keeps working for 3 to 5 hours after injection.
aspartame (ASS-per-tame) a dietary sweetener with almost no calories and no nutritional value. (Brand names: Equal, NutraSweet
atherosclerosis (ATH-uh-row-skluh-RO-sis) clogging, narrowing and hardening of the body’s large arteries and medium-sized blood vessels. Atherosclerosis can lead to stroke, heart attack, eye problems and kidney problems.
autoimmune disease (AW-toh-ih-MYOON) disorder of the body’s immune system in which the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys body tissue that it believes to be foreign.
autonomic neuropathy (aw-toh-NOM-ik ne-ROP-uh-thee) a type of neuropathy affecting the lungs, heart, stomach, intestines, bladder or genitals.
background retinopathy (REH-tih-NOP-uh-thee) a type of damage to the retina of the eye marked by bleeding, fluid accumulation and abnormal dilation of the blood vessels. Background retinopathy is an early stage of diabetic retinopathy. Also called simple or nonproliferative (non-pro-LIF-er-uh-tiv) retinopathy.
beta cell a cell that makes insulin. Beta cells are located in the islets of the pancreas.
biguanide (by-GWAH-nide) a class of oral medicine used to treat Type 2 diabetes that lowers blood glucose by reducing the amount of glucose produced by the liver and by helping the body respond better to insulin. (Generic name: metformin)
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.
blood urea nitrogen (BUN) (yoo-REE-uh NY-truh-jen) a waste product in the blood from the breakdown of protein. The kidneys filter blood to remove urea. As kidney function decreases, the BUN levels increase..
body mass index (BMI) a measure used to evaluate body weight relative to a person’s height. BMI is used to find out if a person is underweight, normal weight, overweight or obese.
bolus (BOH-lus) an extra amount of insulin taken to cover an expected rise in blood glucose, often related to a meal or snack.
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.
bunion (BUN-yun) a bulge on the first joint of the big toe, caused by the swelling of a fluid sac under the skin. This spot can become red, sore and infected.
C-peptide (see-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.
callus a small area of skin, usually on the foot, that has become thick and hard from rubbing or pressure.
calorie a unit representing the energy provided by food. Carbohydrate, protein, fat and alcohol provide calories in the diet. Carbohydrate and protein have 4 calories per gram, fat has 9 calories per gram, and alcohol has 7 calories per gram.
capillary (KAP-ih-lair-ee) the smallest of the body’s blood vessels. Oxygen and glucose pass through capillary walls and enter the cells. Waste products such as carbon dioxide pass back from the cells into the blood through capillaries.
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.
cataract (KA-ter-act) clouding of the lens of the eye.
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.
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..
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.
creatinine (kree-AT-ih-nin) a waste product from protein in the diet and from the muscles of the body. Creatinine is removed from the body by the kidneys; as kidney disease progresses, the level of creatinine in the blood increases.
dawn phenomenon (feh-NAH-meh-nun) the early-morning (4 a.m. to 8 a.m.) rise in blood glucose level.
dehydration (dee-hy-DRAY-shun) the loss of too much body fluid through frequent urinating, sweating, diarrhea or vomiting.
dermopathy (dur-MAH-puh-thee) disease of the skin.
Dextrose, also called glucose (DECKS-trohss) simple sugar found in blood that serves as the body’s main source of energy.
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.
diabetic diarrhea (dy-uh-REE-uh) loose stools, fecal incontinence, or both that result from an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine and diabetic neuropathy in the intestines. This nerve damage can also result in constipation.
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 the 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.
diabetic retinopathy (REH-tih-NOP-uh-thee) diabetic eye disease; damage to the small blood vessels in the retina. Loss of vision may result.
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
edema (eh-DEE-muh) swelling caused by excess fluid in the body.
endocrinologist (EN-doh-krih-NAH-luh-jist) a doctor who treats people who have endocrine gland problems such as diabetes.
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.