Glossary of terms
Pre-mixed insulin. 50 per cent intermediate-acting and 50 per cent short-acting insulin.
Pre-mixed insulin. 70 per cent intermediate-acting and 30 per cent short-acting insulin.
A1C levels are established in a test that measures our average blood glucose level over the previous two to three months. Often, this A1C test is called the haemoglobin, HbA1c or glycohemoglobin test. Haemoglobin is the part of the red blood cell that carries oxygen to the cells and sometimes joins with glucose in the bloodstream. The A1C test reveals how much glucose sticks to the red blood cell, which is proportional to the amount of glucose in the blood.
This is a skin condition seen in people when their body does not respond correctly to the insulin produced in their pancreas. It is characterised by dark skin patches. The condition is also seen in those with prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes.
One of the class of medicines known as alpha-glucosidase inhibitors, this is an oral medicine used to treat Type 2 diabetes. It works by slowing down the enzyme that turns carbohydrates into glucose. This results in a smaller rise in blood sugar levels after a meal.
Also known as acesulfame-k, this is a dietary sweetener. It has no calories or nutritional value.
Belonging to the class of medicines called sulfonylureas, this is an oral medicine used to treat Type 2 diabetes. It works by lowering blood glucose by helping the pancreas make more insulin, as well as helping the body to optimise the insulin it makes.
This is a condition associated with diabetes. It results in pain and reduced movement in the shoulder.
Another term for Type 2 diabetes.
AGEs, or advanced glycosylation end products, are produced by the body when glucose links with protein. Their role in damaging blood vessels can lead to complications for people with diabetes.
These cells, found in the pancreas, release the glucagon hormone when blood glucose falls too low. When glucagon gets to the liver, glucose is released into the blood for energy.
This class of oral medicine, used to treat Type 2 diabetes, blocks the enzymes that digest starches in food. There is then a slower rise in blood glucose during the day, particularly after eating.
Amylin is a hormone in the pancreas, made up of beta cells. It regulates the release of glucose into the bloodstream by slowing stomach emptying.
Less oxygen is carried to cells in the body with this condition. It is caused by a deficiency of red blood cells or of haemoglobin in the blood.
Antibodies are proteins used by the body to guard against substances like bacteria and viruses. Type 1 diabetes occurs when antibodies destroy the body’s insulin-making beta cells.
Standing for angiotensin receptor blocker, ARB is an oral medicine. It lowers blood pressure.
This is a fast acting insulin that lowers blood glucose within 20 minutes of injection. It keeps working for around five hours after being introduced into the body, but is at its strongest after between one and three hours.
With no calories or nutritional value, this is a dietary sweetener.
In the case of diabetes, basal rate is a slow but steady trickle of small levels of longer-acting insulin, as used in insulin pumps.
Found in the islets of the pancreas, beta cells make insulin.
Also referred to as blood sugar, blood glucose is the main sugar in the blood and is the main source of energy for the body.
Blood glucose level
Quite simply this level is the amount of glucose in a given amount of blood. It is usually shown in the form of milligrams in a decilitre or mg/dL.
Blood glucose meter
This is a handheld device that people can use to check their own blood glucose levels. A user pricks their skin and puts a drop of blood on a test strip which is inserted into the device. A digital display in the meter displays the blood glucose level as a number.
Blood glucose monitoring
This phrase relates to the task of managing diabetes by regularly checking your blood glucose level. Blood glucose meters (see above) are used for such monitoring, as are blood glucose strips that change colour when they react with a blood sample.
This is the phrase that relates to the force of blood exerted on the inside walls of blood vessels and is expressed as a ratio. For example, an average blood pressure would be shown as 120/80, which you would express verbally as 120 over 80. The first number is the systolic pressure, which is the pressure caused by the heart pushing blood into the arteries. The second number, the diastolic, is the pressure when the heart rests.
Blood urea nitrogen (BUN)
When protein breaks down in the blood is produces the waste product known as blood urea nitrogen. The kidneys in the body filter blood to remove urea. BUN levels increase as kidney function decreases.
Arteries, veins and capillaries are the three main types of blood vessels, which carry blood to and from all parts of the body.
Body mass index (BMI)
BMI is the measure calculated by evaluating someone’s body weight in relation to their height. It is used to establish if someone is underweight, normal weight, overweight or obese.
This refers to the extra amount of insulin taken to cover an expected rise in blood glucose. Often related to eating a meal or having a snack.
This is a former term for prediabetes.
Brittle diabetes is the term for when a blood glucose level moves often from low to high and from high to low.
This substance – “connecting peptide” – is what the pancreas releases into the blood in equal amounts of insulin. Testing levels of it reveals the amount of insulin the body is making.
The calorie is the unit that represents the energy provided by the food we eat. Calories are provided by carbohydrate and protein (both four calories per gram), fat (nine calories per gram) and alcohol (seven calories per gram).
Oxygen and glucose pass through the walls of a capillary, which is the smallest blood vessel. Carbon dioxide and other waste products pass back from cells into the blood via capillaries.
Starches, vegetables, fruit, dairy and sugars all provide carbohydrates, which is one of the three main nutrients in food.
This refers to an approach to meal planning. Ideal for people with diabetes or concerned about prediabetes, the method is based on counting the number of grams of carbohydrate in food.
Cardio metabolic risk factors
This set of conditions has an important bearing on whether someone develops diabetes or heart disease.
A specialist heart doctor.
Disease of heart and blood vessels.
Certified diabetes educator (CDE)
A health care professional who has met the appropriate requirements and passed the necessary certification examination to be regarded as a diabetes educator.
This is an oral medicine that is used to treat Type 2 diabetes. It works by lowering blood glucose levels by encouraging the pancreas to make more insulin and helping the body to use it better. It is in the class of medicines called sulfonylureas.
Cholesterol is the fat produced by the liver and found in the blood. Also found in some foods, the body uses cholesterol to make hormones and build cell walls.
When different medicines are used together to manage blood glucose levels of people with Type 2 diabetes.
This is a class of medicine for Type 2 diabetes. By helping the pancreas make more insulin immediately after meals, it lowers blood glucose levels.
A rise in blood glucose level between 4.00 and 8.00am.
Dextrose, also called glucose
This is a simple sugar that is found in blood. It is the body’s main source of energy.
Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT)
A study, made between 1983 and 1993, of people with Type 1 diabetes. It was carried out by the United States’ National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. A chief finding was that intensive therapy compared to conventional therapy helped prevent or delay complications with diabetes.
A health care professional who helps people by teaching them how to manage their diabetes.
This is a rare condition caused by a deficiency of the pituitary hormone vasopressin, which regulates kidney function. It is not related to diabetes mellitus (known as diabetes), but it does share some signs and symptoms.
This is the Latin name for what is usually simply referred to as diabetes.
Faecal incontinence or loose stools caused by too much bacteria in the small intestine and diabetic neuropathy in the intestines. Such nerve damage can cause constipation also.
Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA)
Signs of DKA include stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, breath odour and rapid breathing. With this condition high blood glucose levels, with a severe lack of insulin, result in the breakdown of body fat for energy and an accumulation of keytones in the blood and urine. Untreated, it can lead to coma and death.
Occurring in women, and sometimes men, it is a fibrous breast condition. The non-malignant lumps can be surgically removed, although they can return.
Sometimes found in people with diabetes, a complication involving damage to the spinal cord.
This condition is also called diabetic eye disease. It involves damage to the small blood vessels in the retina, and loss of vision is sometimes caused.
Diabetogenic means causing diabetes. It may refer, for example, to some drugs that cause blood glucose levels to rise, thus resulting in diabetes.
This is a condition that is associated with diabetes. The fingers curve inwards, caused by the fingers and the palm of the hand thickening and shortening.
The endocrine gland is a group of specialised cells that release hormones into the blood. The islets in the pancreas, which secrete insulin, are endocrine glands.
An endocrinologist is a specialist doctor who treats people who have endocrine gland problems, including diabetes.
A diabetes meal planning system. Foods are grouped by their nutritional content, while lists provide serving sizes for meat and alternatives, carbohydrates and fats. Using the lists different groups can be substituted to keep nutritional content fixed.
Fasting blood glucose test
This test checks someone’s blood glucose level after they have refrained from eating for between eight and 12 hours. It is used to diagnose prediabetes and diabetes and also to monitor diabetes.
This test measures the number of blood glucose molecules linked to protein molecules in the blood. It provides average blood glucose levels for the preceding three weeks.
With four calories per gram, fructose is a sugar that is found naturally in fruits and honey.
Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM)
This is a form of diabetes that develops only during pregnancy. It usually disappears when the baby is born, but can increase the risk of diabetes in later life for the mother. GDM can be managed with meal planning, and sometimes with the use of insulin.
This is a type of insulin that is very long lasting. It usually begins to lower blood glucose levels within one hour of injection. It carries on working evenly for 24 hours.
Glimepiride is an oral medicine. Used to treat Type 2 diabetes, it lowers blood glucose by helping the pancreas make more insulin. It also helps the body make better use of it. It is in the class of medicines called sulfonylureas.
Glipizide is an oral medicine. Used to treat Type 2 diabetes, it lowers blood glucose by helping the pancreas make more insulin. It also helps the body make better use of it. It is in the class of medicines called sulfonylureas.
This is a hormone that raises blood glucose and is produced by alpha cells in the pancreas. An injectable form is used to treat severe hypoglycaemia.
This is one of the simplest forms of sugar.
Pure glucose, in chewable form, to treat hypoglycaemia.
A combination of glyburide and metformin, this is an oral medicine used to treat Type 2 diabetes.
Glyburide is an oral medicine. Used to treat Type 2 diabetes, it lowers blood glucose by helping the pancreas make more insulin. It also helps the body make better use of it. It is in the class of medicines called sulfonylureas.
The glycemic index is a way of ranking food that contains carbohydrate. It is based on the overall effect the food has on levels of blood glucose. A low GI rating is given to slowly absorbed foods, while a higher rating will be given to those that are absorbed more quickly.
This is the form of glucose that is found in the liver and muscles.
Associated with diabetes or kidney disease, glycosuria is the presence of glucose in urine.
This term refers to glycated haemoglobin, which develops when haemoglobin joins with glucose in the blood to become glycated.
HDL (high density lipoprotein) cholesterol
Known sometimes as “good” cholesterol, this is a fat found in the blood. It takes extra cholesterol to the liver for removal.
HHNS (hyperosmolar hyperglycaemic nonketotic syndrome)
With this condition blood glucose levels are very high and there are no ketones in the blood or urine. If it is not treated, coma or death can occur.
HLA (human leukocyte antigens)
These proteins on the cell surface determine whether the cell belongs to the body or is one from outside it. Certain patterns of them may increase the risk of Type 1 diabetes.
Also known as the honeymoon period, this refers to when someone with Type 1 diabetes experiences a brief remission. During this phase their pancreas may still secrete some insulin, but over time this stops. They will then need more insulin from injections. The honeymoon phase can last weeks, months, or even over a year.
A hormone is a chemical. It is produced in the body and released into the blood to regulate or trigger particular functions. Insulin – a hormone – is produced in the pancreas and triggers cells to use glucose for energy.
Human leukocyte antigens (HLA)
Found on the surface of the cell, these proteins assist our immune systems to identify whether the cell belongs in the body or has come from outside it. Some patterns of them may lead to an increased risk of Type 1 diabetes.
Hyperglycaemia refers to excessive blood glucose. If someone has not eaten for eight hours and their blood glucose is above a desirable level, it is called fasting hyperglycaemia. Postprandial hyperglycaemia is blood glucose above a desirable level one to two hours after eating.
This term refers to higher than normal fat and cholesterol levels in the blood.
Hypertension refers to when blood flows more forcefully than normal through vessels. Also known as high blood pressure it can strain the heart, damage blood vessels and increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney problems and death.
Hypoglycaemia happens when blood glucose is lower than normal. (Less than 70 mg/dL usually.) It can cause dizziness, drowsiness and confusion, among other things, and can lead to unconsciousness if not treated. Carbohydrate-rich food can be used to treat it, as can an injection of glucagon if someone is unconscious or unable to swallow. It is also known as an insulin reaction.
Hypotension is low blood pressure, when blood pressure in your arteries is abnormally low.
Impaired Fasting Glucose (IFG)
This is another term for prediabetes. It refers to someone having a higher than normal level of blood glucose, but not so high that it would lead to a diagnosis of diabetes. A blood glucose test, taken after someone has fasted for eight to 12 hours, would produce a level of between 100 mg/dL and 125 mg/dL. Someone with prediabetes is at an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Impaired Glucose Tolerance (IGT)
This is another term for prediabetes. It refers to someone having a higher than normal level of blood glucose, but not so high that it would lead to a diagnosis of diabetes. It is revealed by a level of between 140 mg/dL and 199 mg/dL two hours after the start of an oral glucose tolerance test. Someone with prediabetes is at an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Implantable insulin pump
This small pump sits within the body. It is then possible to deliver insulin using remote-controlled commands.
This is insulin in powdered, inhalable form. It is delivered via a portable nebulizer.
Insulin is the hormone that helps the body use glucose for energy. It is made by the beta cells of the pancreas. When the body cannot make enough insulin, it can be taken by injection or through the use of an insulin pump.
This refers to insulin changes someone makes, taking into account factors such as physical activity, meals and blood glucose levels.
Insulin analogues relate to tailored forms of insulin that perform in the same way but with additional benefits. Sometimes referred to as designer insulins.
This is a device for injecting insulin. Resembling a fountain pen, it holds replaceable cartridges of insulin.
Roughly the size of a pack of cards, this device can be used to provide a steady amount of insulin throughout the day via a needle inserted into the skin. It can be programmed to release specific doses of insulin at meal times or when levels of blood glucose are too high.
Also known as hypoglycaemia, this is when the level of glucose is too low, i.e. at or below 70 mg/dL).
This is the outer part of the cell that enables the cell to bind with insulin in the blood. Once they have come together, the cell can use energy from the glucose it takes from the blood.
This is the term used to refer to an inability of the body to respond to and use the insulin it produces. It may be linked to obesity, hypertension, and high levels of fat in the blood.
Insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM)
This is an old term for Type 1 diabetes.
An insulinoma is a tumour of the beta cells in the pancreas. It produces excessive amounts of insulin and is more common in women.
In diabetes, this refers to blood glucose levels being kept as normal as possible with the use of frequent injections or an insulin pump. It can also involve meal planning, adjusting medicines and exercise.
This is insulin that begins to lower blood glucose about one to two hours after injection. It is at its strongest six to 12 hours after injection.
Islets are group of cells in the pancreas that make hormones. Those hormones help the body break down and use food. Alpha cells make glucagon, for example, while beta cells make insulin.
When there is a lack of insulin in the blood and the body breaks down fat for energy, the chemical ketone is produced. High levels of it can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis and coma.
This refers to a build-up of ketone in the body that can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis. Signs of it include nausea, sickness and stomach pain.
A lancet is spring-loaded device. It is has a small needle which pricks the skin to obtain a drop of blood for blood glucose monitoring.
Latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA)
Type one diabetes that develops in adults.
This is insulin that is intermediate-acting. It begins to lower blood glucose one to two hours after injection. It is at its strongest eight to 10 hours after injection. It is also known as L insulin.
Small dents in the skin caused by loss of fat. It can be caused by recurrent injections of insulin in the same place.
This is fast-acting insulin that starts to lower blood glucose about five minutes after injection. It is at its strongest thirty to sixty minutes after injection and keeps working for three hours.
This is insulin that starts to lower blood glucose about four to six hours after injection. It is at its strongest 10 to 18 hours after injection.
It means “big body” and in diabetes refers to abnormally large babies that can be born to women with diabetes.
Maturity-onset diabetes of the young (MODY)
This is a rare form of diabetes affecting about one to five per cent of people with diabetes. It often runs in families and is caused by a mutation in a single gene.
This is a class of oral medicine for Type 2 diabetes. It lowers blood glucose by helping the pancreas make more insulin immediately after meals.
Metabolic syndrome is when a number of conditions – including obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes or prediabetes, hypertension and high lipids – occur together.
Metformin is an oral medicine. Used to treat Type 2 diabetes, it lowers blood glucose by reducing the amount of glucose produced by the liver. It also helps the body respond well to the insulin made in the pancreas. It is in the class of medicines called biguanides.
Miglitol is an oral medicine. It is used to treat Type 2 diabetes. By blocking the enzymes that digest starches in food, there is a slower rise in blood glucose during the day, particular after meals. It is in the class of medicines called alpha-glucosidase inhibitors.
Nateglinide is an oral medicine. By aiding the pancreas make more insulin immediately after meals, it lowers blood glucose levels. It is in the class of medicines called D-phenylalanine derivatives.
A term for disease of the nervous system, neuropathy has three forms for people with diabetes: peripheral neuropathy (which is the most common and affects chiefly the legs and feet), autonomic neuropathy and mononeuropathy.
Noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM)
An old term for Type 2 diabetes.
NPH, which stands for neutral protamine Hagedorn, is intermediate-acting insulin. It begins to lower blood glucose about one to two hours after injection. It is at its strongest after about six to 10 hours, and keeps working for around 10 hours. It is also known as N insulin.
Obesity refers to a condition when a body has a greater than normal amount of fat. Someon would have Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or more with this condition, which is more severe than being overweight.
Oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT)
This is a way to diagnose both prediabetes and diabetes. It involves taking a blood sample from the patient, who also takes a high-glucose drink. Further blood samples are taken at intervals of two to three hours. The results are compared with a standard reading to determine how the body utilises glucose over time.
Oral hypoglycaemic agents
This relates to oral medicines that keep blood glucose levels as close as possible to normal. Classes of such agents include alpha-glucosidase inhibitors, biguanides, D-phenylalanine derivatives, meglitinides, sulfonylureas and thiazolidinediones.
Less severe that obese, overweight refers to having a Body Mass Index of 25 to 29.9.
The pancreas is the organ that produces insulin and enzymes for digestion. About the size of a hand, it is behind the lower part of the stomach.
Photocoagulation is a way of treating diabetic retinopathy. A laser is utilised to seal bleeding eye blood vessels. It also destroys extra blood vessels which should not have developed.
Pioglitazone is an oral medicine. Used to treat Type 2 diabetes, it helps insulin take glucose from the blood into the cells for energy. It does this by making cells more sensitive to insulin. It is in the class of medicines call thiazolidinediones.
This term refers to excessive thirst, and may be a sign of diabetes.
This term refers to excessive appetite of eating, and may be a sign of diabetes.
This term refers to a condition where someone is producing or passing an excessive or abnormally large amount of urine. It may be a sign of diabetes.
Pre-prandial blood glucose
This is the level of blood glucose before eating.
Also referred to as Impaired Fasting Glucose (IFG) and Impaired Glucose Tolerance (IGT), prediabetes is a condition where blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough for a diabetes diagnosis. People with prediabetes are at an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, as well as heart disease and stroke.
Two types of insulin produced as a combination.
The precursor to insulin, it is made in the pancreas and broken into several pieces to become insulin.
It begins to lower blood glucose about five to 10 minutes after injection and is at its strongest after 30 minutes to three hours.
Also known as the Somogyi effect, this refers to a swing from a low level to a high level of glucose.
Short-acting insulin that starts to lower blood glucose about 30 minutes after injection. It is at its strongest about two to five hours after injection and keeps working for about five to eight hours. It is also known as R insulin.
Rosiglitazone is an oral medicine. Used to treat Type 2 diabetes, it helps insulin take glucose from the blood into the cells for energy. It does this by making cells more sensitive to insulin. It is in the class of medicines called thiazolidinedione.
Another disease or some drugs or chemicals cause what is known as secondary diabetes.
Managing diabetes with a system of physical exercise, meal planning, blood glucose monitoring, medicine and so on. The person with diabetes self manages the plan with the help of health care professionals.
Short-acting insulin starts to lower blood glucose about 30 minutes after injection. It is at its strongest about two to five hours after injection and keeps working for about five to eight hours.
A system of adjusting insulin taking factors such as blood glucose results, meals and physical activity.
Also known as rebound hypoglycaemia, this refers to a swing from a low level to a high level of glucose.
A sweetener with 2.6 calories per gram. It is also a substance produced by people with diabetics. It can cause damage to eyes and nerves.
Split mixed dose
This refers to the division of a daily dose of insulin for at least two injections during a day.
This is a calorie-free artificial sweetener. It is derived from sucrose and has having no calories it has no nutritional value.
This is a sugar usually known as table sugar or white sugar. Found naturally in sugar cane and beet sugar, it is made up of glucose and fructose.
Simply, sugar is a class of carbohydrates with a sweet taste. It includes glucose, fructose and sucrose. It is the term used to refer to blood glucose.
Sugar alcohols are sweeteners that produce a smaller rise in blood glucose than other carbohydrates. They include erythritol, hydrogenated starch hydrolysates, isomalt, lactitol, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, and xylitol. They have a calorie content of around two calories per gram.
Sulfonylurea is an oral medicine. Used to treat Type 2 diabetes, it lowers blood glucose by helping the pancreas make more insulin. It also helps the body make better use of th insulin it makes.
A device that is used to inject liquids such as medicines into the body. An insulin syringe consists of a plastic tube with a plunger and a needle.
A treatment system involving a team of healthcare professionals – doctor, nurse, diabetes educator, dietician and so on – working in a team to provide care to someone with diabetes.
Thiazolidinedione is an oral medicine. Used to treat Type 2 diabetes, it helps insulin take glucose from the blood into the cells for energy. It does this by making cells more sensitive to insulin.
Tolazamide is an oral medicine. Used to treat Type 2 diabetes, it works by lowering blood glucose by helping the pancreas make more insulin, as well as helping the body to optimise the insulin it makes. It is in the class of medicines called sulfonylureas.
Tolbutamide is an oral medicine. Used to treat Type 2 diabetes, it works by lowering blood glucose by helping the pancreas make more insulin, as well as helping the body to optimise the insulin it makes. It is in the class of medicines called sulfonylureas.
This is the main form of stored fat in the body. High levels of it are a sign that diabetes is out of control.
Type 1 diabetes
Someone has Type 1 diabetes when they have high blood glucose levels caused by a complete lack of insulin. The condition arises when our immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. It occurs most often in young people, but adults can be affected.
Type 2 diabetes
e has Type 2 diabetes when they have high blood glucose levels caused by either a lack of insulin or an inability in their body to use insulin efficiently. It occurs more often with middle-aged and older adults but can happen to young people.
This is insulin that is long-acting. It begins to lower blood glucose four to six hours after injection. It is at its strongest 10 to 18 hours after injection and keeps working for 24 to 28 hours. It is also known as U insulin.
Unit of insulin
This is simply the basic measurement of insulin. U-100 insulin means there are 100 units of insulin per milliliter (mL) or cubic centimeter (cc) of solution.
United Kingdom Prospective Diabetes Study (UKPDS)
A British study of people with Type 2 diabetes conducted between 1977 and 1997. A main finding was that lowering blood glucose levels lowered the risk of eye and kidney damage.
This is insulin that is very-long-acting. It begins to lower blood glucose within one hour of injection and works evenly for 24 hours.
Literally caring for wounds to ensure they heal correctly. It is particularly important for people with diabetes to ensure that wounds do not become infected.
A sweetener found in plants. It is carbohydrate-based and used instead of sugar.