Diabetes Glossary

Diabetes Glossary

A1C — Test that calculates how much glucose adheres to part of the hemoglobin during the last 90-120 days. This test gives the most accurate overall picture of one’s typical blood glucose levels, and involves a small (finger prick) of blood as a sample. Test results are usually available within minutes.

ACE inhibitor — (Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme) – A blood pressure lowering drug. It may also help to slow or even prevent the spread of kidney disease in diabetics according to preliminary studies.

Autoimmune Disease — A process in which the body’s own immune system mistakenly identifies healthy body tissue for foreign matter, which it then destroys.

Beta Cells — Insulin producing cells found in the pancreas area known as the Islets of Langerhans.

Bladder — An organ that urine drains to from the human kidneys, ultimately exiting the body.

Blood Glucose — The main sugar that the body makes from the food we eat. Glucose is carried through the bloodstream to provide energy to all of the body’s living cells. The cells cannot use glucose without the help of insulin.

blood pressure — The force of the blood against the artery walls. Two levels of blood pressure are measured: the highest, or systolic, occurs when the heart pumps blood into the blood vessels, and the lowest, or diastolic, occurs when the heart rests.

blood sugar See blood glucose.

calluses — Thick, hardened areas of the skin, generally on the foot, caused by friction or pressure. Calluses can lead to other problems, including serious infection and even gangrene.

carbohydrate — One of three main groups of foods in the diet that provide calories and energy. (Protein and fat are the others.) Carbohydrates are mainly sugars (simple carbohydrates) and starches (complex carbohydrates, found in bread, pasta, beans) that the body breaks down into glucose.

cholesterol — A substance similar to fat that is found in the blood, muscles, liver, brain, and other body tissues. The body produces and needs some cholesterol. However, too much cholesterol can make fats stick to the walls of the arteries and cause a disease that decreases or stops circulation.

corns — A thickening of the skin of the feet or hands, usually caused by pressure against the skin.

diabetes — The short name for the disease called diabetes mellitus. Diabetes results when the body cannot use blood glucose as energy because of having too little insulin or being unable to use insulin. See also type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and gestational diabetes.

diabetes pills — Pills or capsules that are taken by mouth to help lower the blood glucose level. These pills may work for people whose bodies are still making insulin.

diabetic eye disease — A disease of the small blood vessels of the retina of the eye in people with diabetes. In this disease, the vessels swell and leak liquid into the retina, blurring the vision and sometimes leading to blindness.

diabetic ketoacidosis — High blood glucose with the presence of ketones in the urine and bloodstream, often caused by taking too little insulin or during illness.

diabetic kidney disease — Damage to the cells or blood vessels of the kidney.

diabetic nerve damage — Damage to the nerves of a person with diabetes. Nerve damage may affect the feet and hands, as well as major organs.

dialysis — A method for removing waste from the blood when the kidneys can no longer do the job.

diphtheria — An acute, contagious disease that causes fever and problems for the heart and nervous system.

EKG — A test that measures the heart’s action. Also called an electrocardiogram.

flu — An infection caused by the “flu” (short for “influenza”) virus. The flu is a contagious viral illness that strikes quickly and severely. Signs include high fever, chills, body aches, runny nose, sore throat, and headache.

food exchanges — A way to help people stay on special food plans by letting them replace items from one food group with items from another group.

gestational diabetes — A type of diabetes that can occur in pregnant women who have not been known to have diabetes before. Although gestational diabetes usually subsides after pregnancy, many women who’ve had gestational diabetes develop type 2 diabetes later in life.

gingivitis — A swelling and soreness of the gums that, without treatment, can cause serious gum problems and disease.

glucagon — A hormone that raises the blood glucose level. When someone with diabetes has a very low blood glucose level, a glucagon injection can help raise the blood glucose quickly.

glucose — A sugar in our blood and a source of energy for our bodies.

heart attack — Damage to the heart muscle caused when the blood vessels supplying the muscle are blocked, such as when the blood vessels are clogged with fats (a condition sometimes called hardening of the arteries).

HDL (or high-density lipoprotein)— A combined protein and fatlike substance. Low in cholesterol, it usually passes freely through the arteries. Sometimes called “good cholesterol.”

high blood glucose—A condition that occurs in people with diabetes when their blood glucose levels are too high. Symptoms include having to urinate often, being very thirsty, and losing weight.

high blood pressure—A condition where the blood circulates through the arteries with too much force. High blood pressure tires the heart, harms the arteries, and increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and kidney problems.

hormone—A chemical that special cells in the body release to help other cells work. For example, insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas to help the body use glucose as energy.

hyperglycemia—See high blood glucose.

hypertension—See high blood pressure.

hypoglycemia—See low blood glucose.immunization—Sometimes called vaccination; a shot or injection that protects a person from getting an illness by making the person “immune” to it.

impotence—A condition where the penis does not become or stay hard enough for sex. Some men who have had diabetes a long time become impotent if their nerves or blood vessels have become damaged.

influenza—See flu.

inject—To force a liquid into the body with a needle and syringe.

insulin—A hormone that helps the body use blood glucose for energy. The beta cells of the pancreas make insulin. When people with diabetes can’t make enough insulin, they may have to inject it from another source.

insulin-dependent diabetes—See type 1 diabetes.

ketones—Chemical substances that the body makes when it doesn’t have enough insulin in the blood. When ketones build up in the body for a long time, serious illness or coma can result.

kidneys—Twin organs found in the lower part of the back. The kidneys purify the blood of all waste and harmful material. They also control the level of some helpful chemical substances in the blood.

laser surgery—Surgery that uses a strong ray of special light, called a laser, to treat damaged parts of the body. Laser surgery can help treat some diabetic eye diseases.

low blood glucose—A condition that occurs in people with diabetes when their blood glucose levels are too low. Symptoms include feeling anxious or confused, feeling numb in the arms and hands, and shaking or feeling dizzy.

LDL (or low-density lipoprotein)—A combined protein and fatlike substance. Rich in cholesterol, it tends to stick to the walls in the arteries. Sometimes called “bad cholesterol.”

meal plan—A guide to help people get the proper amount of calories, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in their diet. See also food exchanges.

microalbumin—A protein found in blood plasma and urine. The presence of microalbumin in the urine can be a sign of kidney disease.

nephropathy—See diabetic kidney disease.

neuropathy—See diabetic nerve damage.

non-insulin-dependent diabetesSee type 2 diabetes.

pancreas—An organ in the body that makes insulin so that the body can use glucose for energy. The pancreas also makes enzymes that help the body digest food.

periodontitis—A gum disease in which the gums shrink away from the teeth. Without treatment, it can lead to tooth loss.

plaque—A film of mucus that traps bacteria on the surface of the teeth. Plaque can be removed with daily brushing and flossing of teeth.

pumice stone—A special foot care tool used to gently file calluses as instructed by your health care team.

retinopathy—See diabetic eye disease.

risk factors—Traits that make it more likely that a person will get an illness. For example, a risk factor for getting type 2 diabetes is having a family history of diabetes.

self-monitoring blood glucose—A way for people with diabetes to find out how much glucose is in their blood. A drop of blood from the fingertip is placed on a special coated strip of paper that “reads” (often through an electronic meter) the amount of glucose in the blood.

stroke—Damage to a part of the brain that happens when the blood vessels supplying that part are blocked, such as when the blood vessels are clogged with fats (a condition sometimes called hardening of the arteries).

support group—A group of people who share a similar problem or concern. The people in the group help one another by sharing experiences, knowledge, and information.

type 1 diabetes—A condition in which the pancreas makes so little insulin that the body can’t use blood glucose as energy. Type 1 diabetes most often occurs in people younger than age 30 and must be controlled with daily insulin injections.

type 2 diabetes—A condition in which the body either makes too little insulin or can’t use the insulin it makes to use blood glucose as energy. Type 2 diabetes most often occurs in people older than age 40 and can often be controlled through meal plans and physical activity plans. Some people with type 2 diabetes have to take diabetes pills or insulin.

ulcer—A break or deep sore in the skin. Germs can enter an ulcer and may be hard to heal.

urea — A nitrogen-based substance that is normally cleared from the bloodstream by the kidneys and excreted from the body via urine. Diseases that compromise kidney function (such as diabetes) often lead to increased levels of this substance in the bloodstream.

vaccination— Injection of a killed microbe in order to stimulate the immune system against the microbe, thereby preventing disease.

vitrectomy— Vitrectomy is the surgical removal of the vitreous (transparent gel that fills the eye from the iris to the retina).

yeast infection— Candidiasis is an infection caused by a group of microscopic fungi or yeast. There are more than 20 species of Candida, the most common being Candida albicans. Under certain conditions, they can become so numerous they cause infections, particularly in warm and moist areas.


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