Confused by words like glucagon and diabetic retinopathy? Cut through the medical jargon with these easily understandable definitions of diabetes-related terms.
Learning that you have diabetes can be overwhelming – with lifestyle changes, new medications, and the variety of tests needed to stay healthy. Here’s a glossary of some of the most common diabetes terms you need to know.
A1C: a test that reveals exactly how well your blood sugar (glucose) has been controlled over the previous three months.
Beta cells: cells found in the pancreas that make insulin.
Blood glucose: also known as blood sugar, glucose comes from food and is then carried through the blood to deliver energy to cells.
Blood glucose meter: a small medical device used to check blood glucose levels.
Blood glucose monitoring: the simple blood test used to check the amount of glucose in the blood; a tiny drop of blood, taken by pricking a finger, is placed on a test strip and inserted in the meter for reading.
Diabetes: the shortened name for diabetes mellitus, the condition in which the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin or your body is unable to use insulin to move glucose into cells of the body.
Diabetic retinopathy: the eye disease that occurs in someone with diabetes when the small blood vessels of the retina become swollen and leak liquid into the retina, blurring vision; it can sometimes lead to blindness.
Gestational diabetes: the diabetes some women develop during pregnancy; it typically subsides after the baby is delivered, but many women who have had gestational diabetes may develop type 2 diabetes later in life.
Glucagon: the hormone that is injected into a person with diabetes to raise their blood glucose level when it’s very low (hypoglycemia).
Glucose: blood sugar that gives energy to cells.
Hyperglycemia: also known as high blood glucose, this condition occurs when your blood glucose level is too high; weight loss, thirstiness, and frequent urination are typical symptoms.
Hyperosmolar hyperglycemic nonketotic syndrome: a condition usually caused by an infection or illness that results in blood sugar levels rising to dangerously high levels; HHNS can lead to seizures, coma, and death.
Hypoglycemia: also known as low blood sugar, severe hypoglycemia can cause a variety of symptoms ranging from dizziness to seizures.
Insulin: a hormone made by the pancreas that assists in the use of glucose for energy; people with diabetes who don’t make enough insulin will inject it.
Ketoacidosis: a condition often caused by an infection or other illness like dehydration, or from taking too little insulin; when the body begins to break down muscle and fat for needed energy, ketones are released into the urine and blood, leading to diabetic ketoacidosis.
Ketones: the chemical substance made by your body when there isn’t enough insulin in your blood; a build-up of ketones can lead to serious illness or coma.
Nephropathy: a diabetic kidney disease in which protein is spilled into the urine; it can progress over time and result in significant kidney damage.
Neuropathy: diabetes-caused nerve damage, typically in the feet and hands; major organs can also be affected.
Pancreas: the organ that makes insulin, needed to convert glucose to energy.
Type 1 diabetes: insulin-dependent diabetes that requires life-long insulin treatment; type 1 occurs when the pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin, preventing your body from properly using blood glucose as energy.
Type 2 diabetes: non-insulin-dependent diabetes, a condition in which your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or doesn’t use it properly and can’t properly use blood glucose as energy; type 2 may be treated with oral medication, but could eventually require insulin.