Diabetes Glossary

Words to know related to diabetes

Antibodies
Antibodies are specialized proteins that are part of the immune system. They are created when an antigen (such as a virus or bacteria) is detected in the body. The antibodies bond with the specific antigen that triggered their production, and that action neutralizes the antigen, which is a threat to the body. Antibodies are created to fight off whatever has invaded the body. See also autoantibodies.

Antigens
An antigen is a foreign substance (such as a virus or bacteria) that invades the body. When the body detects it, it produces specific antibodies to fight off the antigen.
 
Autoantibodies
Autoantibodies are a group of antibodies that “go bad” and mistakenly attack and damage the body’s tissues and organs. In the case of type 1 diabetes, autoantibodies attack the insulin producing beta cells in the pancreas. 
 
Autoimmune disorder
If you have an autoimmune disorder (also called an autoimmune disease), your body’s immune system turns against itself and starts to attack its own tissues.
 
Basal secretion (basal insulin)
We all should have a small amount of insulin that’s constantly present in the blood; that is the basal secretion. People with type 1 diabetes must take a form of insulin that replicates the basal secretion throughout the day; that’s basal insulin.
 
Beta cells
Beta cells are located in the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas. They are responsible for making insulin.
 
 Blood glucose level
The blood glucose level is how much glucose is in your blood at a given time. This level is very important for people with diabetes, and they must monitor their blood glucose level throughout the day. If the blood glucose level is too high (hyperglycemia), that means that there isn’t enough insulin in the blood. If it’s too low (hypoglycemia), that means that there’s too much insulin.
 
Bolus secretion (bolus insulin)
After we eat, the pancreas releases the right amount of the hormone insulin to process the carbohydrates in the meal; that’s the bolus secretion. People with type 1 diabetes must take a form of insulin that replicates the bolus secretion; that’s bolus insulin.
 
Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are one of the three main energy sources for the body (the others are fat and protein). Your body breaks down carbohydrates to get glucose, which then provides energy to the body.
 
Diabetes mellitus
Diabetes mellitus is the full name for diabetes, but most people refer to it as just diabetes.
 
Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA)
Diabetic ketoacidosis (abbreviated to DKA) is a very serious condition. It occurs when there is no insulin to help the body use glucose for energy. Glucose builds up in the blood, and the body turns to fat for energy. As the body breaks down the fat, ketones are released, and when too many of those build up in the blood, it makes the blood acidic. If you don’t get immediate treatment for DKA, it can lead to a coma or even death.
 
Dialysis
One of the possible long-term complications of diabetes is kidney disease and failure. If your kidneys aren’t working well, they can’t clean the blood. Dialysis is a treatment option for people with kidney failure. It’s a process that artificially cleans the blood.
 
Endocrine system
Your endocrine system produces hormones that control bodily function. Diabetes is an endocrine disorder because insulin is a hormone. In type 1 diabetes, the body doesn’t produce insulin. With type 2 diabetes, the body either produces too little insulin or doesn’t use it correctly.
 
Fasting blood glucose
The fasting blood glucose is one of the ways that diabetes is diagnosed. It measures the blood glucose level after fasting overnight.
 
Fat
Fat is an energy source for your body (the other two energy sources are carbohydrates and protein).
 
Gestational diabetes
Gestational diabetes is diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. Women with gestational diabetes have unusually high blood glucose levels while pregnant. The symptoms usually dissipate after delivery, but women who have gestational diabetes are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later on.
 
Glucagon
Glucagon is a hormone made by the pancreas. It raises the blood glucose level, so it counteracts the effects of the hormone insulin. If someone with diabetes has very low blood glucose (hypoglycemia), then a glucagon injection may help raise the blood glucose level.
 
 Glucose
Glucose is a sugar that the body uses for energy. In order to use it properly, your body must have enough of the hormone insulin.
 
 Glucose intolerance
See pre-diabetes.
 
 Hemoglobin A1c
The hemoglobin A1c measures the blood glucose level over 90 days. It helps you and your doctor doctor see how well you’ve done controlling your blood glucose level on average.
 
Hyperglycemia
Hyperglycemia is when you have too much glucose in the blood.
 
 Hypoglycemia
Hypoglycemia is when you have too little glucose in the blood.
 
 Insulin
Insulin is a hormone that helps the body use glucose. Insulin allows glucose to enter the cells that need it, especially the muscles. Without insulin, glucose can’t get to where it needs to go. People with type 1 diabetes don’t have this hormone; people with type 2 diabetes either don’t have it or their bodies aren’t able to use it.
 
 Insulin resistance
Insulin resistance is when the body doesn’t respond as well as it should to insulin. It’s an early sign of type 2 diabetes.
 
 Ketones
When the body starts to break down fat in order to get energy, ketones are a byproduct. When too many of those build up in the blood, it makes the blood acidic and can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis.
 
 Lipohyertrophy
Lipohyertrophy occurs when an injection site is overused. The skin swells and a node can develop. The skin swells and may become tough. Injected insulin may not be absorbed very well from a site that has been overused.
 
Macrovascular complications
Over time, poor blood glucose control can lead to serious complications, including damage to major blood vessels—to the macrovascular system. Macrovascular complications cause plaque to build up in the arteries, which can lead to a heart attack, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
 
Microvascular complications
Over time, poor blood glucose control can lead to serious complications, including damage to tiny blood vessels—to the microvascular system. These microvascular complications of diabetes can lead to problems with the eyes (retinopathy or cataracts), kidneys (nephropathy), and nerves (neuropathy).
 
Nephropathy
Nephropathy is damage to the kidneys. It is a possible long-term complication of diabetes. Nephr- is a Greek root that means kidney, and –pathy is a Greek root meaning damage.
 
Neuropathy
Neuropathy is damage to the nerves. It is a possible long-term complication of diabetes. Neuro- is a Greek root that means nerves, and –pathy is a Greek root meaning damage.
 
Oral glucose tolerance test
The oral glucose tolerance test is one way that diabetes is diagnosed. It measures the blood glucose level five times over a period of three hours after you drink a high glucose mixture. 
 
Pancreas
The pancreas is an organ of the endocrine system. A specific area of the pancreas, the islets of Langerhans, produces the hormone insulin.
 
Pre-diabetes
Pre-diabetes, also called glucose intolerance, is when a person has high blood glucose levels, but they aren’t high enough yet to be diagnosed as diabetes. Pre-diabetes is an early sign of type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance (when the body doesn’t use insulin as well as it should) is another pre-diabetes sign.
 
Protein
Protein is a source of energy (as are carbohydrates and fat). Protein is found mainly in meat and beans.
 
Retinopathy
Retinopathy is damage to the retina. It is a possible long-term complication of diabetes. The retina is the part of the eye that senses light, and –pathy is a Greek root meaning damage.
 
Target range
Blood glucose levels need to stay within a certain range, and when you have diabetes, you must regulate your blood glucose levels with diet, exercise, and (perhaps) insulin. Before meals, the target range is 70 to 130mg/dL, and one to two hours after a meal, the target range is below 180mg/dL.