Diabetes Dictionary

A blood test that reflects average blood sugar over the past 3 months.

Basal Insulin
See Longer-Acting Insulin.

Beta Cells
Cells in the pancreas that make insulin.

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 (sugar) in a given amount of blood. It is reported as the number of milligrams of glucose in a deciliter of blood, or mg/dL.

Blood Glucose Meter
A handheld device that tests blood glucose (sugar) levels. A drop of blood, obtained by pricking a finger, is placed on a small strip that is inserted in the meter which measures and displays the blood sugar level.

Blood Sugar Monitoring
Checking blood sugar (glucose) levels on a regular basis in order to manage diabetes. A blood glucose meter is needed for frequent blood sugar monitoring.

Blood Sugar
Sugar in the form of glucose in the blood. Also called blood glucose.

Blood Sugar Level
The amount of sugar (glucose) in a given amount of blood. It is reported as the number of milligrams of glucose in a deciliter of blood, or mg/dL.

A dose of rapid-acting insulin given around meals or an extra dose of rapid-acting insulin given as needed to lower high blood sugar.

One of the 3 main nutrients in food. Foods that provide carbohydrate include starches, breads, sweets, vegetables, fruits, milk products, and sugars.

Counting Carbohydrates
A method for diabetic meal planning that requires counting all carbohydrates consumed in food. Since carbohydrates cause an increase in blood sugar, keeping track of the amounts that are eaten will allow you to understand how carbohydrates affect your blood sugar.

Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE)
A healthcare professional with expertise in diabetes education who has met eligibility requirements and successfully completed a certification exam.

Diabetic Food Exchange List
A system designed for diabetic meal planning that involves using lists of foods grouped by type (fats, fruits, meats, milk, starch, etc.). Each food is broken down into detailed nutritional information based on serving size, making it easy to “exchange” one food in a group for another, based on the nutritional information. These exchange lists simplify making good food choices and allow for variety in the diet while ensuring the proper balance of calories and nutrients necessary for a healthy diet.

Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA)
An emergency condition in which high blood sugar 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. DKA can cause nausea and vomiting, stomach pain, fruity breath odor, and rapid breathing. Untreated DKA can lead to coma and death.

The amount of a medicine to be taken within a given period.

One of the 3 main nutrients in food. Foods that provide fat include butter, margarine, lard, shortening, 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.

Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM)
A condition in pregnant women characterized by high blood sugar, caused by the body’s inability to use the insulin it makes or to make the insulin it needs during pregnancy.

Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 (GLP-1) Receptor Agonists
A class of type 2 diabetes drugs that “mimic” the effects of a naturally occurring hormone from the intestines and can help the body make more of its own insulin. GLP-1 receptor agonists help to lower blood sugar in patients with type 2 diabetes.

Glucose is the major source of energy for cells, and most glucose comes from carbohydrates. Because glucose is carried to each cell through the bloodstream, it is often called “blood glucose” or “blood sugar”.

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.

Also called high blood sugar. Hyperglycemia can happen when the body does not have enough insulin or when the body can’t use insulin properly. Symptoms may include excessive thirst, frequent urination, dry skin, blurred vision, and fatigue.

Also called low blood sugar. Symptoms may include sweating, trembling, hunger, dizziness, moodiness, confusion, and blurred vision.

Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas by beta cells. Insulin is necessary for glucose (sugar) to be able to enter certain cells of the body and be used for energy.

Insulin-Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (IDDM)
Outdated term for type 1 diabetes.

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.

Chemical substances that are made by the body when fat is used as a fuel source instead of glucose. When ketones build up to a great extent in the body, diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) can develop. If untreated, DKA could result in serious illness, coma, or death.

Latent autoimmune diabetes of adults (LADA), sometimes called diabetes type 1.5, is a concept introduced in 1993 to describe slow-onset type 1 autoimmune diabetes in adults. Adults with LADA are often initially misdiagnosed as having type 2 diabetes, based on age, not etiology.

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

Longer-Acting or Basal Insulin
Insulin that keeps your blood sugar stable between meals and overnight. Also called “background” insulin.

Mixture Insulin
A combination of a rapid-acting or a short-acting insulin with a longer-acting insulin.

Non-Insulin-Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (NIDDM)
Outdated term for type 2 diabetes.

An organ located behind the lower part of the stomach that produces the hormones insulin and glucagon, and releases them into the bloodstream to help manage blood sugar levels. The pancreas also produces digestive enzymes.

Condition that occurs when a person has blood sugar levels that are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.

One of the 3 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 to build cells, to create insulin and other hormones, and to perform other functions.

Rapid-Acting Insulin
Insulin that starts to work quickly (usually within 15 minutes) after injection, with its peak activity (strongest effect) lasting only a few hours. Generally, rapid-acting insulin is a mealtime insulin.

Sharps Container
A container for disposal of used needles, syringes, and lancets; often made of hard plastic so that needles cannot poke through.

Short-Acting Insulin
A type of insulin with an onset of 30 to 60 minutes, a peak at 2 to 4 hours, and a duration of 5 to 8 hours. Generally, short-acting insulin is a mealtime insulin.

Type 1 Diabetes
A disease characterized by high blood sugar levels caused by a lack of insulin production. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body’s immune system destroys the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. The pancreas then produces little or no insulin. Type 1 diabetes develops most often in young people but can appear in adults and affects up to 10% of people living with diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes must take insulin daily to sustain life.

Type 2 Diabetes
A disease characterized by high blood sugar 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 who are obese or overweight, but can appear in young people. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, affecting 90% or more of people living with diabetes.