Diabetes Glossary

Not sure what some diabetes lingo means? Here are easy-to-understand definitions you can use for your general knowledge. Remember, your healthcare provider is your best source for answers about your health or treatment.


American Diabetes Association
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases 

Definition: The test that measures your average blood glucose level over the past 2 to 3 months. Sometimes also called the hemoglobin A1c, or HbA1c.
Definition: A condition where there is restricted movement of the shoulder joint due to inflammation and thickening of the joint capsule. Over time, the pain, stiffness, and ability to move the shoulder can get worse.
Definition: A family of proteins, of which serum albumin is the most common. Serum albumin is a protein made by the liver, and is found in blood. It is measured with an albumin test.
Definition: A type of cell in the pancreas that makes and releases glucagon when blood glucose falls too low. Glucagon is a hormone that tells the liver to release glucose into the blood for energy.
Definition: A hormone made by beta cells in the pancreas. After eating, amylin helps manage the glucose that enters the blood by slowing down the emptying of the stomach.
Definition: A condition in which the number of red blood cells is less than normal. Because of this, less oxygen gets delivered to the body’s cells.
Definition: Proteins made by the body to identify and target foreign substances such as bacteria or viruses. In people with type 1 diabetes, the body makes antibodies that destroy its own insulin-making beta cells.
Definition: A condition that occurs when the immune system mistakenly identifies and targets healthy body tissue.
Definition: Neuropathy is a disease of the nervous system that affects the lungs, heart, stomach, intestines, bladder, or genitals. Peripheral neuropathy is the most common form of neuropathy in people with diabetes. It mainly affects the legs and feet.

Definition: An early stage of diabetic retinopathy in which the blood vessels in the retina of the eye are damaged, and begin to leak blood and fluid into the eye.
Definition: Also referred to as "long-acting insulin." Provides blood sugar lowering activity for approximately 24 hours. Along with the rest of your treatment plan, it can help control your blood sugar between meals and while you are sleeping.
Definition: A rate that is programmed in an insulin pump to constantly deliver small doses of insulin to maintain stable blood glucose.
Definition: Cell(s) in the pancreas that make insulin.
Definition: Help decrease the amount of blood sugar made by your liver. They also help improve the way your body responds to insulin.
Definition: A device used to measure how much sugar is in your blood at a specific point in time.
Definition: A process of routinely testing how much sugar is in your blood at a specific point in time.
Definition: The force of blood against the walls of arteries, recorded as two numbers: the systolic pressure (pressure when the heart pushes blood out) over the diastolic pressure (pressure when the heart is at rest).
Definition: A common name for glucose, one of the simplest forms of sugar. Blood glucose, or blood sugar, is the amount of glucose in the blood, and is the body's main source of energy.
Definition: A value based on a person's height and weight. A high BMI is a risk factor for diabetes.
Definition: Use of a short- or rapid-acting insulin to control a spike in blood sugar levels, usually after a meal.
Definition: A term used when a person's blood glucose level swings frequently from low to high and from high to low.

Definition: A substance the pancreas releases into the bloodstream in equal amounts to insulin. The level of C-peptide in the blood can also be used to determine how much insulin is in the blood.
Definition: The amount of energy provided by food. Carbohydrate and protein each have 4 calories per gram, fat has 9 calories per gram, and alcohol has 7 calories per gram.
Definition: A method of meal planning to keep your blood sugar levels within range in which you count the grams of carbohydrates in the food you eat to make sure you stay within limits.
Definition: A doctor who treats people who have heart problems.
Definition: Qualified healthcare professionals, including, but not limited to, registered nurses, registered dietitians, pharmacists, physicians, mental health professionals, podiatrists, optometrists, and exercise physiologists, who can help people learn how to manage their diabetes. Certified by NCBDE, National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators.
Definition: A type of fat used by the body to make hormones and build cell walls. It can be found in some foods, but is also produced by the liver.
Definition: The use of different medicines together to manage the blood glucose levels of people with type 2 diabetes.

Definition: The early-morning (usually 4 a.m.-8 a.m.) rise in blood glucose level.
Definition: An excessive loss of body fluid typically through frequent urinating, sweating, diarrhea, or vomiting.
Definition: A disease of the skin.
Definition: Another name for glucose. (See blood sugar or glucose.)
Definition: A rare type of diabetes that is unrelated to diabetes mellitus and is characterized by frequent and heavy urination, excessive thirst, and an overall feeling of weakness. Blood glucose levels are normal in people with diabetes insipidus.
Definition: A disease that is characterized by high blood sugar. This condition occurs when your body does not make enough insulin or is unable to use insulin properly.
Definition: Teaches people with diabetes and their caregivers about diabetes and its management.
Definition: A disorder in which the skin on the hands becomes waxy and thickened and eventually finger movement may become limited.
Definition: A condition that develops when one's blood sugar reaches a very high level, blood thickens and excess sugar passes from blood into urine, triggering a filtering process that draws fluid from the body.
Definition: Also known as DKA, this is an emergency condition in which extremely high blood glucose levels and extremely low levels of insulin cause the body to break down fat for energy. Blood acids, called ketones, begin to collect in the blood and urine. Signs of DKA are nausea and vomiting, stomach pain, fruity breath odor, and rapid breathing. Untreated DKA can lead to coma and death.
Definition: A form of diabetic retinopathy that occurs when fluid leaks into the center of the macula, the part of the eye where sharp, straight-ahead vision occurs. The fluid makes the macula swell, blurring vision.
Definition: Damage in the spinal cord found in some people with diabetes.
Definition: Eye disease that is caused by damage to the small blood vessels in the retina. Loss of vision may result.
Definition: Identifying a disease from its signs and symptoms.
Definition: Prevent the breakdown of GLP-1 so that GLP-1 can help the pancreas make more insulin after meals.

Definition: A doctor who treats people who have endocrine system problems such as diabetes.
Definition: Lists that help people make meal plan substitutions. Foods are categorized into three groups based on nutrition—carbohydrates, protein and meat alternatives, and fats—and serving sizes are provided.

Definition: A person's blood glucose level after fasting for 8 to 12 hours (usually overnight). This test is used to diagnose prediabetes and diabetes. It is also used to monitor blood sugar levels and how well a treatment is working for people with diabetes.
Definition: A test to determine a person's average blood glucose level over the past 3 weeks. The test that measures the number of blood glucose molecules linked to protein molecules in the blood.
Definition: A sugar that occurs naturally in fruits and honey.

Definition: Also known as delayed gastric emptying, it is a condition in which the muscles in your stomach don't function properly. It results in slowing down or stopping food from moving from the stomach to the small intestine, making blood sugar control difficult.
Definition: A test used to check the rate at which a kidney filters waste from the blood, which shows how well your kidneys are functioning. The test is based on your blood creatinine test, age, and gender.
Definition: A naturally occurring incretin hormone that helps control blood sugar.
Definition: A medicine that mimics naturally occurring GLP-1. GLP-1 RAs activate GLP-1 receptors to slow the movement of food through your stomach. They also increase insulin release and reduce glucagon secretion after meals.
Definition: A hormone produced by the alpha cells in the pancreas. It raises blood glucose.
Definition: One of the simplest forms of sugar that is used for energy by the body.
Definition: A ranking of foods that contain carbohydrates. It is based on the effect of the food on blood glucose levels. A food with a high glycemic index will cause a quick rise in blood sugar levels, while foods with a low glycemic value will cause a slower and lower rise in blood glucose levels.

Definition: Stands for high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and is also known as "good" cholesterol. It is a fat found in the blood that takes extra cholesterol from the blood to the liver for removal.
Definition: A temporary remission experienced by some people with type 1 diabetes when the pancreas secretes some insulin. It can last for weeks, or even a year.
Definition: Chemicals produced by the body to help other cells work, for example, insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas to help the body use glucose as energy.
Definition: The medical term for high blood sugar.
Definition: When the amount of insulin in your blood is higher than what is considered normal.
Definition: The medical term for low blood sugar.
Definition: A state of low blood sugar in which a person cannot tell they have hypoglycemia because they cannot recognize the symptoms, don't feel them, or don't have them.

Definition: A condition in which blood glucose level is higher than normal after a two-hour glucose tolerance test, but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. Other name is prediabetes.
Definition: A hormone that the pancreas makes to help your body use blood glucose for energy or store it for later use.
Definition: A device for injecting insulin that looks like a fountain pen.
Definition: An insulin pump is a small battery-operated device about the size of a small cell phone. It continuously delivers small amounts of insulin through an infusion line placed under the skin.
Definition: When the body cannot use or respond to the insulin that it produces.
Definition: A treatment for diabetes in which blood glucose is kept as close to normal as possible. Optimal blood glucose levels are reached through frequent injections of insulin or use of an insulin pump, meal planning, adjustment of medicines, and physical activity. People undergoing intensive therapy work closely with their healthcare team.
Definition: Begins working a few hours after it is taken and helps lower blood sugar for 12—18 hours.
Definition: Also called islets of Langerhans, these groups of cells are found in the pancreas where they make hormones that help the body break down and use food. For example, alpha cells make glucagon and beta cells make insulin.

Definition: A device that uses high pressure instead of a needle to get insulin through the skin and into the body.

Definition: A chemical produced when there is a shortage of insulin in the blood and the body breaks down body fat for energy.
Definition: A buildup of ketones in the body. Ketosis can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis.

Definition: A spring-loaded device used to prick the skin with a small needle to obtain a drop of blood for blood glucose monitoring.
Definition: A type of diabetes that has qualities of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Definition: A fat found in the body that can be converted to energy.
Definition: Buildup of fat below the surface of the skin, causing lumps and may be caused by repeated injections of insulin in the same spot.

Definition: A kind of type 2 diabetes.
Definition: Is released quickly, helping to control blood sugar after meals.

Definition: A therapy and counseling service for the purpose of disease management through behavioral and lifestyle changes to impact long-term eating habits and health, which are furnished by a registered dietitian or nutrition professional. Medical Nutrition Therapy includes:

  1. Performing a comprehensive nutrition assessment determining the nutrition diagnosis;
  2. Planning and implementing a nutrition intervention using evidence-based nutrition practice guidelines;
  3. Monitoring and evaluating an individual's progress over subsequent visits with the registered dietitian.
Definition: The presence of small amounts of the protein albumin in the urine. Microalbuminuria may indicate kidney damage or disease.
Definition: The damage to a specific single nerve.
Definition: A “client-centered,” directive therapeutic style or method for enhancing intrinsic motivation to change by exploring and resolving ambivalence.

Definition: Immediate acting, usually gets into the bloodstream in about 30 minutes, peaks within 2 to 3 hours, and lasts for up to 6 hours.
Definition: A doctor who specializes in conditions of the kidney.
Definition: Disease of the nervous system. The three major forms in people with diabetes are peripheral neuropathy, autonomic neuropathy, and mononeuropathy. The most common form is peripheral neuropathy, which affects mainly the legs and feet.
Definition: Former term for type 2 diabetes.

Definition: A medical doctor who diagnoses and treats all eye diseases and eye disorders and can also prescribe glasses and contact lenses.
Definition: A licensed professional who performs eye exams to check for vision problems and diseases and prescribes eyeglasses or contact lenses as needed.

Definition: The pancreas is a gland near your stomach that makes insulin and enzymes that help you digest food.
Definition: Leg swelling caused by the buildup of fluids in leg tissues.
Definition: Damage to nerves in the feet, legs, hands, and arms, which can cause pain, numbness, or a tingling feeling.
Definition: A healthcare professional who dispenses prescription medications to patients and can offer advice on their safe use.
Definition: A doctor specializing in foot problems.
Definition: A condition in which blood glucose levels are higher than normal but are not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. People with prediabetes are at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes and for heart disease and stroke. Other names for prediabetes are “impaired glucose tolerance” and “impaired fasting glucose.”
Definition: A form of diabetic retinopathy that occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow over the surface of the retina and may leak blood into the center of the eye.
Definition: One of the three main nutrients in food. Foods high in protein include meat, poultry, fish, dairy products (cheese milk), eggs, and dried beans. Proteins are also used in the body for cell structure, hormones such as insulin, and other functions.


Definition: The damage of nerves in the thighs, hips, buttocks, or legs. This condition is more common in people with type 2 diabetes and older adults, and can cause sudden, severe pain in the hip and thigh or buttock, eventually weakening or even destroying the muscles in the thigh.
Definition: Insulin that begins to work within 5 to 10 minutes, peaks at 30 minutes, and lasts up to 3 hours after injection.

Definition: Help lower blood sugar by eliminating sugar in the urine.
Definition: A sweetener with no calories and no nutritional value.
Definition: The process of continually managing your own diabetes through regular meal planning, physical activity, blood glucose monitoring, and treatment. Self-management also includes developing a game plan with your healthcare professional to learn how to handle episodes of illness and of low and high blood glucose, managing diabetes when traveling, etc.
Definition: When the blood glucose level swings high following an episode of low blood glucose, or hypoglycemia. This rebound may be more likely in the morning following an untreated hypoglycemia during the night, but can happen at any time of day.
Definition: A sweetener made from sugar but with no calories and no nutritional value. Sold under the brand name Splenda.
Definition: A two-part sugar made of glucose and fructose. Known as table sugar or white sugar, it is found naturally in sugar cane and in beets.
Definition: Help the pancreas make more insulin; insulin helps lower blood sugar.

Definition: A diabetes treatment approach in which medical care is provided by a team of healthcare professionals including a doctor, a dietitian, a nurse, and a diabetes educator. Team members act as advisers to the person with diabetes.
Definition: Help insulin work in muscles and fat cells.
Definition: A condition where your pancreas can no longer produce insulin. People with type 1 diabetes must take insulin.
Definition: A condition where your pancreas does not produce enough insulin, and/or does not correctly use the insulin it produces.