Diabetes Glossary

definition of health

What does this mean?

Learn about diabetes-related terms used throughout the site.

Amylin
A hormone released along with insulin from beta cells, which decreases glucose levels during meals.
Artificial sweeteners
Sugar substitutes that taste sweet, have no carbohydrates and essentially no calories, and will not raise blood sugars.
Basal infusion profile
An insulin pump term that refers to the amount of insulin delivered every half hour or hour over a 24-hour period to provide background (i.e., overnight, fasting and between-meal) insulin replacement.
Basal insulin replacement
Background insulin replacement, which is the amount of insulin required to stabilize the blood sugar overnight, while fasting and between meals.
Beta cells
Specialized cells, which make and release the hormone insulin, that are found in the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas.
Blood glucose
The main sugar that is the body’s source of fuel. Glucose is carried through the bloodstream to provide energy to all cells in the body.
Blood sugar rebound
The hormonal reaction of the body to a low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) that results in high blood sugar – also known as the Somogyi effect.
Bolus infusion
This is an insulin pump term referring to insulin delivery for food or to correct a high blood sugar. The bolus can be given immediately, as an extended bolus – a stable, continuous infusion over an assigned period of time – or as a dual delivery, a designated percentage delivered immediately, with the remainder as an extended bolus.
Calorie
A unit of measurement that represents the amount of energy provided by food. Carbohydrates and protein provide about 4 calories per gram, while fat yields about 9 calories per gram.
Carbohydrate
One of the three nutrients that supply energy. Carbohydrate is sugar – either single sugars or chains of sugars strung together.
Carbohydrate exchange lists/exchange lists
Foods with a similar amount of carbohydrate, protein and fat calories per serving size are grouped or listed together. The foods within each list can be “exchanged” for one another during meal planning to provide balanced nutrition and to facilitate carbohydrate counting.
Cholesterol
A fat made by the body and consumed in food products that come from animals. Primarily, it travels in the blood as two compounds: low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). Chemically, cholesterol is a sterol, or rings of carbons attached together.
Continuous glucose sensors
Sensors that continuously measure glucose level in the fluid between cells (interstitial fluid.) The average glucose level is displayed on a monitor.
Continuous subcutaneous insulin insulin infusion (CSII)
Insulin delivery through an insulin pump.
Cortisol
A steroid hormone that increases blood sugar by making fats and muscles more resistant to insulin. Cortisol levels may be increased during times of stress. Cortisol is sometimes used as a medicine.
Counting carbohydrates
A method of meal planning for people with diabetes, based on counting the number of grams of carbohydrate in food.
Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT)
A major study of type 1 diabetes conducted in the 1980s that shows the benefits of intensive therapy.
Diabetes/Diabetes mellitus
Often known as just diabetes. The sugars are high because there is not enough insulin or because insulin is not effective. The most common types of diabetes are type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes.
Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA)
This is a medical emergency caused by not enough insulin. Without insulin, the body will break down fat and muscles for energy and make ketones. Signs of DKA are nausea and vomiting, stomach pain, fruity breath odor and rapid breathing. Untreated DKA can lead to coma and death.
Diabetic nephropathy
A general term that means kidney damage caused by diabetes.
Diabetic neuropathy
A general term that means nerve damage caused by diabetes.
Diurnal (daily) insulin sensitivity
Refers to different insulin needs, based on biological changes in the body’s response to insulin throughout a 24-hour cycle.
Dual (combination) bolus
An insulin pump term that refers to an immediate (normal) insulin delivery, followed by a slower (extended) insulin delivery.
Epinephrine
A hormone, also known as adrenaline, that increases during stress (including a low blood sugar.) Epinephrine increases blood sugar by releasing sugar from the liver.
Extended bolus
An insulin pump term that refers to a constant delivery of bolus insulin over a certain period of time designated (programmed) by the user.
Fasting glucose
Glucose level in the bloodstream after not eating for 8 to 12 hours.
Fasting plasma glucose test
Test of glucose level in the bloodstream after not eating for 8 to 12 hours; often used to diagnose pre-diabetes and diabetes.
Fat
One of three nutrients that supply calories to the body. Dietary fats are classified as saturated (animal flesh, butter, margarine, processed and fried foods) and unsaturated (vegetable oils). Unsaturated fats are the preferred food for health reasons.
Fatty acids
A form of fat found in plants and animals. Fatty acids are the major part of triglyceride molecules. Chemically, they are a chain of different numbers of carbons strung together.
Fiber
A type of carbohydrate found in fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and legumes that is not digested by the body. Fiber does not raise blood sugars.
Gastroparesis
A diabetes nerve disease that affects the stomach and delays the passage of food into the intestines. Symptoms are nausea, vomiting, bloating and unpredictable blood sugar control after a meal.
Gestational diabetes
Diabetes diagnosed during pregnancy.
GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide-1)
A hormone released from the gut that helps lower sugars during meals.
Glucagon
A hormone, which is made by islet cells (alpha cells) in the pancreas, that helps regulate the production of glucose and ketones in the liver. It is available as an injection and is used to treat severe low blood sugar.
Gluconeogenesis
The process of the body’s making sugar (glucose) from waste products and the breakdown of protein and fats.
Glucose
A simple sugar that is the main source of energy for the body.
Glucose counter-regulatory hormones
A group of hormones, including glucagon, epinephrine, growth hormones and cortisol, that oppose the action of insulin and increase sugar availability in the bloodstream.
Glucose meter
A small, portable machine that analyzes blood samples to determine blood sugar (glucose) levels.
Glycogenolysis
The breakdown of starch (glycogen) into glucose molecules.
Growth hormone
A hormone released from the brain (pituitary) that counterbalances the effect of insulin on muscle and fat cells. High levels of growth hormone, such as during puberty or stress, cause resistance to the action of insulin.
HDL
High-density lipoprotein particle in the blood. HDL is known as “good” cholesterol because it deposits cholesterol in the liver, where it is excreted by the body. High HDL is thought to protect against coronary artery disease.
Hemoglobin A1c
Hemoglobin A1c (A1c) is a measure of your average blood glucose control over the previous 3 months. Glucose attaches to hemoglobin in red blood cells, and the glucose-hemoglobin unit is called glycosylated hemoglobin. As red blood cells live an average of 3 months, the glycosylated hemoglobin (or A1c) reflects the sugar exposure to the cells over that time.
Hypoglycemia
Low blood sugar.
Hypoglycemic unawareness
Not being able to recognize symptoms of low blood sugar.
Infusion set
An adhesive patch worn on the skin with a cannula that delivers insulin to subcutaneous tissue. It connects an insulin pump to your body.
Insulin
A hormone made by the beta cells (part of the islets of Langerhans) in the pancreas. Insulin is the main regulator of the amount of sugar in the bloodstream.
Insulin concentration
Refers to a specific amount of units of insulin per milliliter in manufactured insulin preparations. The concentration can be different in different countries. In the United States, the insulin concentration is 100 units per milliliter.
Insulin duration
The duration of insulin action after it is administered.
Insulin-on-board
An insulin pump term that refers to the amount of bolus insulin that is still active.
Insulin onset
How quickly insulin starts to work after it has been administered.
Insulin peak
How long it takes for the insulin to work at its strongest level.
Insulin pen
Insulin injection device that looks like a pen. It can be disposable or reusable.
Insulin pump
A small, computerized device that is programmed to deliver insulin.
Insulin replacement therapy
Taking insulin via an injection or through an insulin pump to replace insulin no longer made by the body.
Insulin resistance
A condition in which the body requires more insulin to control the blood sugar levels. Insulin resistance may be worsened by obesity, infections and other medical conditions.
Insulin route of delivery
Refers to how insulin is delivered, such as injected under the skin or infused into the bloodstream.
Insulin sensitivity factor
Refers to how much or how many points (mg/dl) the blood sugar will drop in response to 1 unit of insulin. Also called “high blood sugar correction.”
Insulin stacking
Taking additional insulin when previous insulin dose is still active. This often leads to low blood sugar.
Insulin-to-carbohydrate ratio
An individualized formula that means a unit of insulin will dispose of a specific amount (number of grams) of carbohydrates.
Ketogenesis
The production of ketones.
Ketones
Alternative fuels for the body made from the breakdown of fats when glucose is in short supply.
Liver
A large organ in the abdomen that has many functions, including regulating the availability of glucose and fats, secreting bile, synthesizing clotting substances, storing vitamins, and breaking down drugs and waste products.
Logbook
A notebook used to record blood sugar numbers, amount of carbohydrates, exercise, insulin taken and other factors that can affect blood sugars.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL)
A fat particle in the blood responsible for transporting cholesterol to the body. It is known as “bad” cholesterol because high LDL is linked to coronary artery disease.
Microalbumin
Small amounts of a protein, albumin, that can be detected in the urine.
Microalbumin/creatinine ratio
A laboratory urine test that is used to check for kidney damage.
Multiple daily injection (MDI)
Refers to an insulin replacement regimen that attempts to provide more physiologic levels of insulin (to re-create what the body does normally) by giving multiple injections of insulin throughout the day.
Natural sugars
Sugars naturally found in foods such as milk (lactose), fruit (fructose) and honey. Natural sugars are carbohydrates and will raise blood sugars.
Oral glucose tolerance test
A test used to diagnose pre-diabetes and diabetes. A sugary drink is given and blood samples are taken at pre-set intervals.
Other diabetes
Refers to types of diabetes other than type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes. These other types of diabetes are usually caused by single genetic defects or drugs.
Pancreas
A glandular organ located in the abdomen that produces several hormones, including insulin and glucagon. It also secretes enzymes into the intestine to help digest food.
Pramlintide
An injectable drug that lowers the level of sugar (glucose) in blood after meals; used to treat type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Pramlintide is a synthetic (man-made) hormone that resembles human amylin.
Protein
A molecule made up of chains of amino acids. Protein is one of the three basic nutrients. Proteins are the basis of body structures and essential for cells to function properly.
Random, or casual, plasma glucose test
A glucose level taken at any time of the day.
Retinopathy
An eye complication resulting from the breakdown of blood vessels in the back of the eye.
Route of delivery
Refers to how a medicine is delivered, such as by mouth by an injection.
Serum creatinine
Blood levels of a waste product created by breakdown of muscle. Serum creatinine levels are also used as an index of kidney function.
Somogyi Reaction
A high blood sugar which has developed in response to a low blood sugar caused by excess insulin or other diabetes medications. The body responds to low blood sugar by releasing “stress” or glucose counter-regulatory hormones in order to bring the blood sugar back into the normal range. This process may over-correct and actually cause high blood sugars. Another term for a “Somogyi Reaction” is a “Rebound Reaction”.
Sugar
A type of carbohydrate with a sweet taste; includes glucose, fructose and sucrose.
Sugar alcohols
A type of carbohydrate commonly found in foods labeled “sugar-free” or “no sugar added.” Examples of sugar alcohols are sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol and isomalt. These carbohydrates can raise blood sugars and may cause upset stomach.
Temporary basal rate
An insulin pump term that refers to a basal rate that has been temporarily increased or decreased for a chosen period of time.
Triglycerides
Fat that the body gets from food and can make on its own. Chemically, triglycerides are fatty acids attached at one end to a carbon backbone.
Type 1 diabetes
Diabetes caused by a person’s own immune system attacking the insulin-producing cells (auto-immunity). Not enough or no insulin may be produced.
Type 2 diabetes
Diabetes caused by not enough insulin being secreted to counteract high blood sugars from insulin resistance.

©2007-2016 Collective work Martha Nolte Kennedy,
The Regents of the University of California.
All rights reserved.