Glossary

A1C

A test that gives you a picture of your average blood glucose level over the past 2 to 3 months. The results can give you an idea of how well your diabetes is being controlled. Also known as "hemoglobin A1C," the A1C test does this by measuring the amount of glucose that has attached to the hemoglobin in your red blood cells. More glucose means a higher A1C.

Amylin agonist

An injectible drug that acts like a hormone produced by the pancreas.

Basal insulin

See Long-acting insulin (basal insulin)

Blood glucose

The main sugar found in the blood, and the body’s main source of energy.

Blood glucose meter

A small device that uses a drop of blood to check what your blood glucose level is at the time of the test. There are many kinds of meters. Your diabetes care team can help you choose a meter and show you how to use it.

Bolus

Bolus insulin (prandial or mealtime insulin) is insulin taken to cover an expected rise in blood glucose resulting from a meal or snack. It can also be taken when blood glucose is high.

Carbohydrate

Carbohydrates are the main kinds of food that raise blood glucose levels. Your digestive system changes carbohydrates into glucose, and then uses this glucose as a source of energy for your cells.

There are 3 main types of carbohydrates in food: starches (complex carbohydrates), sugars (simple carbohydrates), and fiber. Fiber is the part of plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, and nuts, that you can’t digest.

Continuous glucose monitor (CGM)

A device that tracks your blood glucose levels all day and night. It works through a tiny sensor put under the skin on the belly or arm. It sends information to a computer, smartphone, or tablet and shows your blood glucose levels at a glance and any changes over a few hours or days.

Diabetes care team

Your diabetes care team may include a primary care doctor, a diabetes and hormone doctor (endocrinologist), a registered nurse, a diabetes educator, a dietitian, a heart doctor (cardiologist), a foot doctor (podiatrist), an eye doctor (ophthalmologist/optometrist), a kidney doctor (nephrologist), a dentist, a pharmacist, and a mental health professional.

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA)

DKA is a condition that occurs when there is a lack of glucose in the body and a buildup of ketones in the blood. Ketones are made when the body uses fat for energy instead of glucose. This can happen when the ratio of glucose to insulin in the body is improper, so your cells don’t get the glucose they need to use for energy.

GLP-1

A hormone produced in the gut that helps the pancreas release insulin to move glucose from the blood into the cells. It stimulates the beta cells in the pancreas to release insulin when blood glucose is high after you eat. It also helps to lower the amount of glucose produced by the liver and slows down the emptying of the stomach.

Glucagon

A hormone released by the alpha cells in the pancreas that helps release glucose stored in the liver when your blood glucose levels are too low. Glucagon is available in an injectable form and can be used to quickly raise blood glucose in severe hypoglycemia.

Glycemic index (GI)

A ranking of carbohydrate-containing foods based on the food’s effect on blood glucose when compared with a standard reference food. Foods with a high glycemic index raise blood glucose more rapidly than foods with a medium or low glycemic index.

Hypoglycemia

When the amount of glucose in your blood drops below 70 mg/dL.

Insulin

A hormone made by the beta cells in the pancreas that helps glucose move from the blood into the cells. Insulin is also an injectable medicine that is used to treat diabetes by controlling the level of glucose in the blood.

Insulin analog

A drug made from a slightly modified version of human insulin. This allows the insulin to have different absorption characteristics that may help to manage diabetes more effectively.

Insulin pen

A device for injecting insulin that looks like an ink pen. Insulin pens either hold replaceable cartridges of insulin or are disposable and prefilled.

Insulin pump

An insulin-delivering device about the size of a deck of cards that can be worn on a belt or kept in a pocket. Most insulin pumps connect to narrow, flexible plastic tubing that ends with a needle inserted just under the skin. Users set the pump to provide insulin continuously throughout the day and night. Pumps can be used to provide bolus doses of insulin at meals and at times when blood glucose is too high, based on programming and input done by the user.

Ketones

Organic compounds produced when the body breaks down fats and fatty acids to use as fuel. This is most likely to occur when the body does not have enough glucose or carbohydrates or the body cannot use glucose effectively. Because high levels of ketones are dangerous, a urine test is one way to check the level of ketones in your body.

Long-acting insulin (basal insulin)

A type of injected insulin that is absorbed slowly and starts to lower blood glucose within 4 to 6 hours after injection. Its strongest effect is 10 to 18 hours after injection depending on the product. This gives the body a low level of insulin to manage blood glucose between meals and overnight.

Metformin (biguanide)

An oral medicine in a class of drugs called biguanides used to treat type 2 diabetes. Metformin lowers blood glucose by reducing the amount of glucose produced by the liver and helping the body respond better to the insulin. It may also lower insulin resistance in the muscles.

Neuropathy

Or diabetic neuropathy. A type of nerve damage caused by high blood glucose, often causing pain and numbness in the legs, feet, and other areas.

Non-insulin medicines

Medication other than insulin that is taken orally or by injection to treat diabetes.

Pancreas

A large organ behind the stomach. The pancreas not only makes pancreatic juices, or enzymes, to help the body digest food, but it also makes hormones such as insulin and glucagon, which are important for glucose metabolism.

Prediabetes

When your blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes.

Tight control

Intensive insulin therapy is a treatment approach designed to keep your blood glucose levels closer to the levels of someone who doesn’t have diabetes. This treatment requires close monitoring of blood glucose levels and multiple doses of insulin.

Type 1 diabetes

When the body makes little or no insulin, which is thought to be caused by an immune system response that destroys insulin-producing cells. People with type 1 diabetes must take insulin every day.

Type 2 diabetes

When your body does not respond to and use insulin as well as it should. Or it may not make enough insulin. Most people with diabetes have type 2.

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