Diabetes Terminology

Diabetes Terminology

Common Terms

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.


A1C 
A test that measures a person’s average blood sugar (blood glucose) level over the past two to three 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.

Acanthosis nigricans (uh-kan-THO-sis NIH-grih-kans)
A skin condition characterized by darkened skin patches; common in people whose body is not responding correctly to the insulin that they make in their pancreas (insulin resistance). This skin condition is also seen in people who have prediabetes or type 2 diabetes.

Acute 
Describes something that happens suddenly and for a short time. Opposite of chronic.

Adhesive capsulitis (ad-HEE-sive cap-soo-LITE-is) (also commonly known as “frozen shoulder”)
A condition of the shoulder associated with diabetes that results in pain and loss of the ability to move the shoulder.

Adult-onset diabetes 
Former term for type 2 diabetes.

AGEs (A-G-EEZ)
Stands for advanced glycosylation (gly-KOH-sih-LAY-shun) end products. AGEs are produced in the body when glucose links with protein. They play a role in damaging blood vessels, which can lead to diabetes complications.

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).

Alpha cell (AL-fa)
A type of cell in the pancreas. Alpha cells make and release a hormone called glucagon. The body sends a signal to the alpha cells to make glucagon when blood sugar (blood glucose) falls too low. Then glucagon reaches the liver where it tells it to release glucose into the blood for energy.

Amylin (AM-ih-lin)
A hormone formed by beta cells in the pancreas. Amylin regulates the timing of glucose release into the bloodstream after eating by slowing the emptying of the stomach.

Amyotrophy (a-my-AH-truh-fee)
A type of neuropathy resulting in pain, weakness and/or wasting in the muscles.

Anemia (uh-NEE-mee-uh)
A condition in which the number of red blood cells is less than normal, resulting in less oxygen being carried to the body’s cells.

Angiopathy (an-gee-AH-puh-thee)
Any disease of the blood vessels (veins, arteries, capillaries) or lymphatic vessels.

Antibodies (AN-ti-bod-eez)
Proteins made by the body to protect itself from “foreign” substances such as bacteria or viruses. People develop 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.

Artery 
A large blood vessel that carries blood with oxygen from the heart to all parts of the body.

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)
An alternate name for non-proliferative (non-pro-LIF-er-uh-tiv) retinopathy.

Basal rate 
A steady trickle of low levels of longer-acting insulin, such as that used in insulin pumps.

Beta cell 
A cell that makes insulin. Beta cells are located in the islets of the pancreas.

Blood glucose (also called blood sugar)
The main source of energy that food is turned into that’s found in the blood.

Blood sugar (blood glucose) level 
The amount of blood sugar at a specific time. It is measured in milligrams per deciliter, or mg/dL.

Blood glucose meter 
A small, portable machine used by people with diabetes to check their blood sugar levels. After pricking the skin with a lancet, one places a drop of blood on a test strip in the machine. The blood glucose meter (sometimes called a monitor) measures and displays the blood sugar level.

Blood glucose monitoring 
Checking blood sugar level on a regular basis in order to manage diabetes. A blood sugar meter or continuous glucose monitor (CGM) is needed for 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 vessels 
Tubes that carry blood to and from all parts of the body. The three main types of blood vessels are arteries, veins, and capillaries.

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 sugar (blood glucose), often related to a meal or snack.

Borderline diabetes 
Not a term recognized by the American Diabetes Association, borderline diabetes is sometimes used to describe prediabetes.

Brittle diabetes 
A term not recognized by the American Diabetes Association, sometimes used to describe when a person’s blood sugar (blood glucose) levels move in extremes from low to high and from high to low.

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.

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, which are more common in people with diabetes.

Cardiometabolic risk factors (CAR-dee-oh MET-ah-BALL-ick)
A set of conditions that have a big effect on whether or not you develop diabetes and/or heart disease.

Cardiovascular disease (KAR-dee-oh-VASK-yoo-ler)
Disease of the heart and blood vessels (arteries, veins, and capillaries).

Cataract (KA-ter-act)
Clouding of the lens in front of the eye.

Cerebrovascular disease (seh-REE-broh-VASK-yoo-ler)
Damage to blood vessels in the brain. Vessels can burst and bleed or become clogged with fatty deposits. When blood flow is interrupted, resulting in a stroke. Brain cells die or are damaged.

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

Charcot’s foot (shar-KOHZ)
A condition in which the joints and soft tissue in the foot are destroyed.

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. When you have problems with your cholesterol, it can affect the blood flow through your blood vessels.

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

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

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 oral medicines 
A pill that includes two or more different medicines. 

Combination therapy 
The use of more than one medication (this can be oral and injected medications typically used to treat type 2 diabetes and insulin) to manage blood sugar (blood glucose) levels.

Complications 
Harmful effects of diabetes such as damage to the eyes, heart, blood vessels, nerves system, teeth and gums, feet, skin, or kidneys. Studies show that managing blood sugar (blood glucose), blood pressure, and cholesterol can help prevent or delay these problems.

Congestive heart failure 
A weakening of the heart’s pumping ability due to changes in the heart muscle. The heart is then too weak to pump enough blood around the body.

Coronary heart disease (KOR-uh-ner-ee)
The most common form of heart disease caused by atherosclerosis, the stiffening and narrowing of arteries caused, in part, by fatty plaques that build up along blood vessel walls in the coronaries (the arteries that supply the heart muscle with blood). Coronary heart disease can starve the heart of oxygen.

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 sugar level that may stay higher later into the morning.

Dehydration (dee-hy-DRAY-shun)
The loss of too much body fluid compared to the amount of fluid you’re taking in. This lack of fluid keeps your body from working properly and can be caused from frequent urinating, sweating, diarrhea, or vomiting.

Desensitization (dee-sens-ih-tiz-A-shun)
Reducing response such as an allergic reaction to something. For example, if someone has diabetes and has frequent low blood sugar (blood glucose) levels (hypoglycemia) the body may not react with the same symptoms that would signal that there’s a problem.

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 sugar (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 care and education specialists (CDCES)s. 

Diabetes insipidus (in-SIP-ih-dus)
A condition unrelated to type 1, type 2, or gestational diabetes that is also characterized by frequent and heavy urination, excessive thirst, and an overall feeling of weakness. 

Diabetes (diabetes mellitus (MELL-ih-tus))
A condition where the body’s blood sugar (blood glucose) levels are higher than normal (hyperglycemia) resulting from the body’s inability to use or store blood sugar for energy. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas no longer makes insulin and blood sugar can’t enter the cells to be used for energy. In type 2 diabetes, either the pancreas does not make enough insulin or can’t use the insulin it does produce effectively.

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 prediabetes, 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, five 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.

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) (KEY-toe-ass-ih-DOH-sis)
An emergency condition in which high blood sugar (blood glucose) levels, along with a 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 mastopathy 
A rare fibrous breast condition occurring in women, and sometimes men, with long-standing diabetes. The lumps are not malignant and can be surgically removed, although they often recur.

Diabetic myelopathy (my-eh-LAH-puh-thee)
Damage to the spinal cord found in some people with diabetes.

Diabetic retinopathy (REH-tih-NOP-uh-thee)
A type of diabetic eye disease; damage to the small blood vessels in the retina. Loss of vision may result.

Diabetogenic (DY-uh-beh-toh-JEN-ic)
Causing diabetes. For example, some drugs cause blood sugar (blood glucose) levels to rise, resulting in diabetes.

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. Diabetic kidney disease can lead to the loss of kidney function and the need for dialysis.

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

Dilated eye exam (DY-lay-ted)
A test done by an eye care specialist in which the pupil (the black center) of the eye is temporarily enlarged with eyedrops to allow the specialist to see the inside of the eye more easily.

Dupuytren’s contracture (doo-PWEE-trenz kon-TRACK-chur)
A condition associated with diabetes in which the fingers and the palm of the hand thicken and shorten, causing the fingers to curve inward.

Edema (eh-DEE-muh)
Swelling caused by excess fluid in the body.

Electromyography (EMG) (ee-LEK-troh-my-AH-gruh-fee)
A test used to detect nerve function. It measures the electrical activity generated by muscles.

Endocrine glands (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 specializes in treating 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.

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 sugar (blood glucose) level after the person has not eaten for 8 to 12 hours (usually overnight). A fasting blood sugar test in a lab is one of the tests used to diagnose prediabetes and diabetes. It is also used to evaluate how the treatment of a person with diabetes is working using results from a blood glucose meter.

Fat 
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. Excess calories are also stored as body fat, providing the body with a reserve supply of energy and is used for other functions.

Fructose (FROOK-tohss)
A sugar that occurs naturally in fruits and honey. Fructose has four 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.

Gastroparesis (gas-tro-puh-REE-sis)
A form of neuropathy that affects the stomach. Digestion of food may be incomplete or delayed, resulting in nausea, vomiting, or bloating, making the management of blood sugar (blood glucose) difficult.

Gestational diabetes (GDM) (jes-TAY-shun-ul MELL-ih-tus)
A type of diabetes 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.

Glaucoma (glaw-KOH-muh)
An increase in fluid pressure inside the eye that may lead to loss of vision.

Glomerular filtration rate (glo-MEHR-yoo-lur)
Measure of the kidney’s ability to filter and remove waste products.

Glucagon (GLOO-kah-gahn)
A hormone produced by the alpha cells in the pancreas. It raises blood sugar (blood glucose). An injectable and nasal forms of glucagon, available by prescription, is used to treat severe hypoglycemia.

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 sugar (blood glucose) compared with a standard reference food. This value is not easily accessible for meal planning.

Glycosuria (gly-koh-SOOR-ee-ah)
The presence of glucose in the urine.

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.

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 longer.

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

Hyperglycemia (HY-per-gly-SEE-mee-uh)
High blood sugar (blood glucose). 

Hyperinsulinemia (HY-per-IN-suh-lih-NEE-mee-uh)
A condition in which the level of insulin in the blood is higher than normal. Caused by overproduction of insulin by the body and is commonly found in people with insulin resistance.

Hyperlipidemia (HY-per-li-pih-DEE-mee-uh)
Higher than normal fat and cholesterol levels in the blood.

Hyperosmolar hyperglycemic nonketotic syndrome (HHNS) (HY-per-oz-MOH-lur HY-per-gly-SEE-mik non-kee-TAH-tik)
An emergency condition in which one’s blood sugar (blood glucose) level is very high and ketones are not present in the blood or urine. If HHNS is not treated, it can lead to coma or death.

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)
Low blood sugar (blood glucose) is a condition that occurs when one’s blood sugar is lower than their target, 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. Severe low blood sugar may also be treated with an injection of glucagon if the person is unconscious or unable to swallow. Sometimes 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.

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 previous term for prediabetes found when using a fasting plasma glucose test.

Impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) 
A previous term for prediabetes found when using an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT).

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)
A type of erectile (ee-REK-tile) dysfunction (dis-FUNK-shun) when an erection cannot be achieved or maintained for sexual activity. 

Incidence (IN-sih-dints)
A measure of how often a disease occurs; the number of new cases of a disease among a certain group of people for a certain period of time.

Incontinence (in-KON-tih-nents)
Loss of bladder or bowel control; the accidental loss of urine or feces.

Inhaled insulin 
An insulin in powder form that can be inhaled to manage blood sugar.

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. When needed, it is taken to manage blood sugar (blood glucose).

Insulin adjustment 
A change in the amount of insulin a person with diabetes takes based on factors such as meal planning, activity, and blood sugar (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 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 can also release bolus doses of insulin (several units at a time) at meals and at times when blood sugar (blood glucose) is too high.

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.

Insulinoma (IN-suh-lih-NOH-mah)
A tumor of the beta cells in the pancreas. An insulinoma may cause the body to make extra insulin, leading to hypoglycemia.

Intensive therapy 
A treatment for diabetes in which blood sugar (blood glucose) is kept as close to normal as possible. Intramuscular injection (in-trah-MUS-kyoo-lar) inserting liquid medication into a muscle with a syringe. Glucagon may be given as an intramuscular injection for hypoglycemia.

Islet cell autoantibodies (ICAs) (EYE-let aw-toe-AN-ti-bod-eez)
Proteins found in the blood of people newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. They are also found in people who may be developing type 1 diabetes. The presence of ICAs indicates that the body’s immune system has been damaging beta cells in the pancreas.

Islet cell transplantation 
Moving the islet cells from a donor pancreas into a person whose pancreas has stopped producing insulin. Beta cells in the islets of Langerhans make the insulin that the body needs for using blood sugar (blood glucose).

Islets of Langerhans (LANG-er-hahns).
Groups of cells located in the pancreas that make hormones that help the body break down and use food. For example, alpha cells make glucagon and beta cells make insulin. Also called islets. 

Juvenile diabetes 
Former term for 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 (DKA). 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 (DKA).

Ketosis (ke-TOE-sis)
A ketone buildup in the body that may lead to diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). 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.

Kidneys 
The two organs that filter wastes from the blood to be removed in urine. The kidneys are located near the middle of the back. They send urine to the bladder.

Kussmaul breathing (KOOS-mall)
The rapid, deep, and labored breathing of people who have diabetic ketoacidosis.

Lancet
A spring-loaded device used to prick the skin with a small needle to obtain a drop of blood for blood glucose monitoring.

Laser surgery treatment
A type of therapy that uses a strong beam of light to treat a damaged area. The beam of light is called a laser. A laser is sometimes used to seal blood vessels in the eye of a person with diabetes. See photocoagulation.

Latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA)
A condition in which type 1 diabetes develops in adults.

LDL cholesterol, stands for low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (kuh-LESS-tuh-rawl LIP-oh-PRO-teen)
A fat found in the blood that takes cholesterol around the body to where it is needed for cell repair and also deposits it on the inside of artery walls. Sometimes called “bad” cholesterol.

Limited joint mobility
A condition in which the joints swell and the skin of the hand becomes thick, tight, and waxy, making the joints less able to move. It may affect the fingers and arms, as well as other joints in the body.

Lipid (LIP-id)
A term for fat in the body. Lipids can be broken down by the body and used for energy.

Lipid profile
A blood test that measures total cholesterol, triglycerides, and HDL cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is then calculated from the results. A lipid profile is one measure of a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease.

Lipoatrophy (LIP-oh-AT-ruh-fee)
Loss of fat under the skin resulting in small dents. Lipoatrophy may be caused by repeated injections of insulin in the same spot.

Lipodystrophy (LIP-oh-DIH-struh-fee)
Caused by the breaking down or building up of fat below the surface of the skin, resulting in lumps or small dents in the skin surface. (See lipohypertrophy or lipoatrophy.) Lipodystrophy may be caused by repeated injections of insulin in the same spot.

Lipohypertrophy (LIP-oh-hy-PER-truh-fee)
Buildup of fat below the surface of the skin, causing lumps. Lipohypertrophy may be caused by repeated injections of insulin in the same spot.

Liver
An organ in the body that changes food into energy, removes alcohol and poisons from the blood, and makes bile, a substance that breaks down fats and helps rid the body of wastes.

Macrosomia (mack-roh-SOH-mee-ah)
Abnormally large; in diabetes, the term is used to refer to abnormally large babies that may be born to women with diabetes.

Macrovascular disease (mack-roh-VASK-yoo-ler)
Disease of the large blood vessels, such as those found in the heart. Lipids and blood clots build up in the large blood vessels and can cause atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, and peripheral vascular disease.

Macula (MACK-yoo-la)
The part of the retina in the eye used for reading and seeing fine detail.

Macular edema (MACK-yoo-lur eh-DEE-mah)
Swelling of the macula.

Maturity-onset diabetes of the young (MODY)
A kind of type 2 diabetes that occurs in younger people.

Metabolic syndrome
Is used to describe the tendency of several conditions to occur together, including obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes or prediabetes, hypertension, and high lipids.

Metabolism
The term for the way cells chemically change food so that it can be used to store or use energy and make the proteins, fats, and sugars needed by the body.

Mg/dL milligrams (MILL-ih-grams) per deciliter (DESS-ih-lee-tur)
A unit of measure that shows the concentration of a substance in a specific amount of fluid. In the United States, blood sugar (blood glucose) results are reported as mg/dL. Other countries use millimoles per liter (mmol/L). To convert to mg/dL from mmol/L, multiply mmol/L by 18. Example: 10 mmol/L �18 = 180 mg/dL.

Microalbumin (MY-kro-al-BYOO-min)
Small amounts of the protein called albumin in the urine detectable with a special lab test.

Microalbuminuria (MY-kro-al-BYOO-min-your-EE-ah)
The presence of small amounts of albumin, a protein, in the urine. Microalbuminuria is an early sign of kidney damage, or nephropathy, a common and serious complication of diabetes. Microalbuminuria is usually managed through blood sugar (blood glucose) management, reducing blood pressure, and a healthy eating plan.

Microaneurysm (MY-kro-AN-yeh-rizm)
A small swelling that forms on the side of tiny blood vessels. These small swellings may break and allow blood to leak into nearby tissue. People with diabetes may get microaneurysms in the retina of the eye.

Microvascular disease (MY-kro-VASK-yoo-ler)
Disease of the smallest blood vessels, such as those found in the eyes, nerves, and kidneys. The walls of the vessels become abnormally thick but weak. The weakness of the walls cause them to crack and bleed, causing complications.

Mixed dose
A combination of two types of insulin in one injection. 

Mmol/L
Millimoles per liter, a unit of measure that shows the concentration of a substance in a specific amount of fluid. In other countries, blood sugar (blood glucose) results are reported as mmol/L. In the United States, milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) is used. To convert to mmol/L from mg/dL, divide mg/dL by 18. Example: 180 mg/dL × 18 = 10 mmol/L.

Monofilament
A short piece of nylon, like a hairbrush bristle used to check the sensitivity of the nerves in the foot.

Mononeuropathy (MAH-noh-ne-ROP-uh-thee)
Neuropathy affecting a single nerve.

Myocardial infarction (my-oh-KAR-dee-ul in-FARK-shun)—heart attack
An interruption in the blood supply to the heart because of narrowed or blocked blood vessels.

Necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum (NEK-roh-by-OH-sis lih-POY-dik-ah DY-uh-bet-ih-KOR-um)
A skin condition usually on the lower part of the legs. Lesions can be small or extend over a large area. They are usually raised, yellow, and waxy in appearance and often have a purple border.

Neovascularization (NEE-oh-VASK-yoo-ler-ih-ZAY-shun)
The growth of new, small blood vessels. In the retina, this may lead to loss of vision or blindness.

Nephrologist (neh-FRAH-luh-jist)
A doctor who treats people who have kidney problems.

Nephropathy (neh-FROP-uh-thee)
Disease of the kidneys. Hyperglycemia and hypertension can damage the kidneys’ glomeruli. When the kidneys are damaged, protein leaks out of the kidneys into the urine. Damaged kidneys can no longer remove waste and extra fluids from the bloodstream.

Nerve conduction studies
Tests used to measure for nerve damage; one way to diagnose neuropathy.

Neurologist (ne-RAH-luh-jist)
A doctor who specializes in problems of the nervous system, such as neuropathy.

Neuropathy (ne-ROP-uh-thee)—diabetic nerve disease
Disease of the nervous system. The three major forms in people with diabetes are peripheral neuropathy, autonomic neuropathy, and mononeuropathy. The most common form is peripheral neuropathy, which affects mainly the legs and feet.

Noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM)
Former term for type 2 diabetes.

Noninvasive blood glucose monitoring (NON-in-VAY-siv)
Measuring blood sugar (blood glucose) without pricking the finger to obtain a blood sample.

NPH insulin
An intermediate-acting insulin. NPH stands for neutral protamine Hagedorn. On average, NPH insulin starts to lower blood sugar within one to two hours after injection. It has its strongest effect 6 to 10 hours after injection but keeps working about 10 hours after injection. Also called N insulin.

Nutritionist (noo-TRIH-shuh-nist)
A person with training in nutrition; may or may not have specialized training and qualifications. See dietitian.

Obesity
A condition in which a greater than normal amount of fat is in the body; more severe than overweight; having a body mass index of 30 or more.

Obstetrician (ob-steh-TRIH-shun)
A doctor who treats pregnant women and delivers babies.

Ophthalmologist (AHF-thal-MAH-luh-jist)
A medical doctor who diagnoses and treats all eye diseases and eye disorders. Ophthalmologists can also prescribe glasses and contact lenses.

Optician (ahp-TI-shun)
A health care professional who dispenses glasses and lenses. An optician also makes and fits contact lenses.

Optometrist (ahp-TAH-meh-trist)
A primary eye care provider who prescribes glasses and contact lenses. Optometrists can diagnose and treat certain eye conditions and diseases.

Oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT)
A test to diagnose prediabetes and diabetes. The oral glucose tolerance test is given by a health care professional after an overnight fast. A blood sample is taken, then the patient drinks a high-glucose beverage. Blood samples are taken at intervals for two to three hours. Test results are compared with a standard and show how the body uses glucose over time.

Oral hypoglycemic agents (hy-po-gly-SEE-mik)
Medicines taken by mouth by people with type 2 diabetes to manage blood sugar (blood glucose) levels. 

Overweight
An above-normal body weight; typically having a body mass index of 25 to 29.9.

Pancreas (PAN-kree-us)
An organ that makes insulin and enzymes for digestion. The pancreas is located behind the lower part of the stomach and is about the size of a hand.

Pancreas transplantation
A surgical procedure to take a healthy whole or partial pancreas from a donor and place it into a person with diabetes.

Pediatric endocrinologist (pee-dee-AT-rik en-doh-krih-NAH-luh-jist)
A doctor who treats children who have endocrine gland problems such as diabetes.

Pedorthist (ped-OR-thist)
A health care professional who specializes in fitting shoes for people with disabilities or deformities. A pedorthist can custom-make shoes or orthotics (special inserts for shoes).

Periodontal disease (PER-ee-oh-DON-tul)
Disease of the gums.

Periodontist (PER-ee-oh-DON-tist)
A dentist who specializes in treating people who have gum diseases.

Peripheral neuropathy (puh-RIF-uh-rul ne-ROP-uh-thee)
Nerve damage that affects the feet, legs, or hands. Peripheral neuropathy causes pain, numbness, or a tingling feeling.

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) (puh-RIF-uh-rul VAS-kyoo-ler)
A disease of the large blood vessels of the arms or legs, usually your legs. PAD may occur when major blood vessels are blocked and do not receive enough blood. The signs of PAD are aching pains and slow-healing foot sores.

Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) (puh-RIF-uh-rul VAS-kyoo-ler) (puh-RIF-uh-rul VAS-kyoo-ler)
Describes problems with blocked blood vessels disrupting the flow of blood to where it’s needed. Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a type of PVD.

Pharmacist (FAR-mah-sist)
A health care professional who prepares and distributes medicine to people. Pharmacists also give information on medicines.

Photocoagulation (FOH-toh-koh-ag-yoo-LAY-shun)
A treatment for diabetic retinopathy. A strong beam of light (laser) is used to seal off bleeding blood vessels in the eye and to burn away extra blood vessels that should not have grown there.

Podiatrist (puh-DY-uh-trist)
A doctor who treats people who have foot problems. Podiatrists also help people keep their feet healthy by providing regular foot examinations and treatment.

Podiatry (puh-DY-uh-tree)
The care and treatment of feet.

Polydipsia (pah-lee-DIP-see-uh)
Excessive thirst; may be a sign of diabetes.

Polyphagia (pah-lee-FAY-jee-ah)
Excessive hunger; may be a sign of diabetes.

Polyuria (pah-lee-YOOR-ee-ah)
Excessive urination; may be a sign of diabetes.

Postprandial blood glucose (post-PRAN-dee-ul)
the blood sugar (blood glucose) level one to two hours after eating.

Prediabetes
A condition in which blood sugar (blood glucose) levels are higher than normal but are not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. People with prediabetes are at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes and for heart disease and having a stroke. Previous names for prediabetes are impaired glucose tolerance and impaired fasting glucose.

Premixed insulin
A commercially produced combination of two different types of insulin. See 50/50 insulin and 70/30 insulin.

Preprandial blood glucose (pree-PRAN-dee-ul)
Blood sugar (blood glucose) level before eating.

Prevalence
The number of people in a given group or population who are reported to have a disease.

Proinsulin (proh-IN-suh-lin)
The substance made first in the pancreas and then broken into several pieces to become insulin.

Proliferative retinopathy (pro-LIH-fur-ah-tiv REH-tih-NOP-uh-thee)
A condition in which fragile new blood vessels grow along the retina and in the vitreous humor of the eye.
 

Prosthesis (prahs-THEE-sis)
A man-made substitute for a missing body part such as an arm or a leg.

Protein (PRO-teen)
1. One of the three main nutrients in food. Foods that provide protein include meat, poultry, fish, cheese, milk, dairy products, eggs, and dried beans. 2. Proteins are also used in the body for cell structure, hormones such as insulin, and other functions.

Proteinuria (PRO-tee-NOOR-ee-uh)
The presence of protein in the urine, indicating that the kidneys are not working properly.

Rebound hyperglycemia (HY-per-gly-SEE-mee-ah)
A swing to a high level of glucose in the blood after a low level. See Somogyi effect.

Recognized Diabetes Education Programs
Siabetes self-management education programs that are approved by the American Diabetes Association.

Renal (REE-nal)
Having to do with the kidneys. A renal disease is a disease of the kidneys. Renal failure means the kidneys have stopped working.

Renal threshold of glucose (THRESH-hold)
The blood sugar (blood glucose) concentration at which the kidneys start to excrete glucose into the urine.

Retina (REH-ti-nuh)
The light-sensitive layer of tissue that lines the back of the eye.

Retinopathy (REH-tih-NOP-uh-thee)
Eye disease that is caused by damage to the small blood vessels in the retina. Loss of vision may result. (Also known as diabetic retinopathy)

Risk factor
Anything that raises the chances of a person developing a disease.

Secondary diabetes 
A type of diabetes caused by another disease or certain drugs or chemicals.

Self-management 
In diabetes, the ongoing process of a person managing diabetes. This includes meal planning, physical activity, and blood sugar (blood glucose) monitoring, and may also include taking diabetes medications, handling episodes of low and high blood suhar, managing diabetes when traveling, and more. The person with diabetes designs his or her own self-management treatment plan with their diabetes care team, which may include doctors, nurses, diabetes educators, 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.

Side effects 
The unintended action(s) of a drug.

Sliding scale 
A set of instructions for adjusting insulin on the basis of blood sugar (blood glucose) test results, meals, or activity levels.

Somogyi (suh-MOH-jee) effect—called rebound hyperglycemia 
When the blood sugar (blood glucose) level swings high following hypoglycemia. The Somogyi effect may follow an untreated hypoglycemic episode during the night and is caused by the release of stress hormones.

Split mixed dose 
Division of a prescribed daily dose of insulin into two or more injections given over the course of the day.

Starch 
Another name for carbohydrate, one of the three main nutrients in food.

Stroke 
Condition caused by damage to blood vessels in the brain; may cause loss of ability to speak or to move parts of the body.

Subcutaneous injection (sub-kyoo-TAY-nee-us)
Putting a fluid into the tissue under the skin with a needle and syringe.

Sucrose 
A two-part sugar made of glucose and fructose. Known as table sugar or white sugar, it is found naturally in sugar cane and in beets.

Sugar 
A class of carbohydrates with a sweet taste, including glucose, fructose, and sucrose. 

Sugar alcohols 
Sweeteners that produce a smaller rise in blood sugar (blood glucose) than other carbohydrates. Their calorie content is about two calories per gram. Includes erythritol, hydrogenated starch hydrolysates, isomalt, lactitol, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, and xylitol. Also known as polyols (PAH-lee-alls.)

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 health care professionals which may include a doctor, a dietitian, a nurse, a diabetes educator, and others. The team acts as advisers to the person with diabetes.

Triglyceride (try-GLISS-er-ide)
The storage form of fat in the body. High triglyceride levels may occur when diabetes is out of control.

Type 1 diabetes 
A condition characterized by high blood sugar (blood glucose) levels caused by a lack of insulin. 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 1 diabetes develops most often in young people but can appear in adults.

Type 2 diabetes 
A condition characterized by high blood sugar (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.

Ulcer (UL-sur)
A deep open sore or break in the skin.

Ultralente insulin (UL-truh-LEN-tay)
Long-acting insulin. On average, ultralente insulin starts to lower blood sugar (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.

Unit of insulin 
The basic measure of insulin. U-100 insulin means 100 units of insulin per milliliter (mL) or cubic centimeter (cc) of solution. Most insulin made today in the United States is U-100.

United Kingdom Prospective Diabetes Study (UKPDS) 
A study in England, conducted from 1977 to 1997 in people with type 2 diabetes. The study showed that if people lowered their blood (blood glucose) sugar, they lowered their risk of eye disease and kidney damage. In addition, those with type 2 diabetes and hypertension who lowered their blood pressure also reduced their risk of stroke, eye damage, and death from long-term complications.

Urea (yoo-REE-uh)
A waste product found in the blood that results from the normal breakdown of protein in the liver. Urea is normally removed from the blood by the kidneys and then excreted in the urine.

Uremia (yoo-REE-mee-ah)
The illness associated with the buildup of urea in the blood because the kidneys are not working effectively. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, weakness, and mental confusion.

Urine 
The liquid waste product filtered from the blood by the kidneys, stored in the bladder, and expelled from the body by the act of urinating.

Urine testing 
Also called urinalysis; a test of a urine sample to diagnose diseases of the urinary system and other body systems. Urine may also be checked for signs of bleeding. Some tests use a single urine sample. For others, 24-hour collection may be needed. And sometimes a sample is “cultured” to see exactly what type of bacteria grows.

Urologist (yoo-RAH-luh-jist)
A doctor who treats people who have urinary tract problems. A urologist also cares for men who have problems with their genital organs, such as impotence.

Vascular (VAS-kyoo-ler)
Relating to the body’s blood vessels.

Vein 
A blood vessel that carries blood to the heart.

Very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) cholesterol 
A form of cholesterol in the blood; high levels may be related to cardiovascular disease.

Vitreous humor (VIH-tree-us)
The clear gel that lies behind the eye’s lens and in front of the retina.

Wound care 
Steps taken to ensure that a wound that can lead to, or is, a foot ulcer heals correctly. People with diabetes need to take special precautions so wounds do not become infected.

This list was taken from the American Diabetes Association’s website.

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