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Diabetes Glossary

diabetes glossary


A1C (HbA1c): A blood test that measures a person’s average blood sugar levels over the past 2-3 months. Also known as glycated hemoglobin, it is expressed as a percentage.


Beta Cells: Cells in the pancreas that produce and secrete insulin, a hormone necessary for regulating blood sugar levels.

Blood Glucose: The main sugar found in the blood, which is the primary source of energy for the body’s cells. Also known as blood sugar.

Blood Glucose Meter: A device used to measure the concentration of glucose in a person’s blood. It typically requires a small drop of blood obtained by pricking the finger with a lancet.

Bolus Insulin: A dose of rapid-acting insulin taken before meals to help control blood sugar spikes that occur after eating. It is used in conjunction with a basal (long-acting) insulin.

Basal Insulin: A long-acting insulin that maintains a steady background level of insulin in the body, helping to regulate blood sugar levels between meals and during sleep.


Carbohydrates: One of the three main macronutrients in the diet, including sugars, starches, and fiber, which break down into glucose during digestion.

Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM): A system that measures glucose levels in real-time throughout the day and night, using a sensor placed under the skin.


Dawn Phenomenon: An early-morning increase in blood sugar levels, typically between 2 a.m. and 8 a.m., due to the release of hormones like cortisol, which increases insulin resistance.

Diabetes: A chronic condition characterized by high blood glucose levels, resulting from the body’s inability to produce or effectively use insulin.

Diabetes Educator: A healthcare professional who specializes in teaching people with diabetes how to manage their condition, including medication, diet, and lifestyle modifications.

Diabetes Mellitus: A group of metabolic disorders characterized by high blood sugar levels over a prolonged period. There are two main types: Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA): A serious and potentially life-threatening complication of diabetes, typically in Type 1, characterized by high blood glucose levels, high ketone levels, and acidosis (low blood pH).

Diabetic Neuropathy: A type of nerve damage that can occur in people with diabetes, primarily affecting the nerves in the legs and feet, leading to pain, numbness, and weakness.

Diabetic Retinopathy: A diabetes-related eye disease that damages the blood vessels in the retina, potentially leading to vision loss or blindness if left untreated.

Diabetic Foot Ulcer: An open sore or wound that occurs on the foot, typically on the bottom, in people with diabetes. It is a common complication due to neuropathy and poor blood circulation.

Diabetic Macular Edema (DME): A complication of diabetic retinopathy that causes swelling in the macula, the central part of the retina responsible for sharp vision. DME can lead to vision loss if left untreated.

Dietitian: A healthcare professional who specializes in the science of nutrition, helping individuals to plan and maintain a healthy diet, including those with diabetes.


Endocrinologist: A doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases related to the endocrine system, which includes diabetes.


Fasting Blood Glucose Test: A blood test that measures glucose levels after an individual has fasted (no food or drink, except water) for at least 8 hours, typically overnight. It is used to diagnose diabetes and prediabetes.

Fructosamine Test: A blood test that measures the level of fructosamine, a compound formed when glucose binds to proteins in the blood. It reflects blood sugar control over the past two to three weeks.


Gestational Diabetes: A type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy, usually around the 24th week, and typically resolves after the baby is born.

Glucagon: A hormone produced by the pancreas that raises blood glucose levels by stimulating the liver to convert stored glycogen into glucose.

Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 (GLP-1) Agonists: A class of injectable medications for people with Type 2 diabetes that help lower blood sugar levels by stimulating insulin secretion, slowing gastric emptying, and reducing appetite.

Glucose Tolerance: The body’s ability to metabolize glucose and maintain normal blood sugar levels. Impaired glucose tolerance is a risk factor for developing Type 2 diabetes.

Glycemic Index (GI): A ranking system that indicates how rapidly a carbohydrate-containing food raises blood glucose levels. Foods with a low GI value release glucose slowly, while high GI foods cause a rapid rise in blood glucose.

Glycemic Load (GL): A measure that takes into account the glycemic index of a food and the amount of carbohydrates in a portion, providing a more accurate indication of how a food affects blood glucose levels.


Honeymoon Period: A phase in the early stages of Type 1 diabetes where the remaining beta cells in the pancreas temporarily regain the ability to produce insulin, resulting in a temporary improvement in blood sugar control.

Hyperglycemia: A condition characterized by higher than normal blood glucose levels, which can lead to serious health complications if left untreated.

Hypoglycemia: A condition characterized by lower than normal blood glucose levels, which can lead to symptoms like dizziness, confusion, and even loss of consciousness if not addressed promptly.


Insulin: A hormone produced by the pancreas that regulates blood sugar levels by allowing glucose to enter cells, where it can be used for energy or stored for later use.

Insulin Injection Sites: Areas on the body where insulin is injected, including the abdomen, thighs, buttocks, and the back of the upper arms. Rotating injection sites is essential to prevent lipohypertrophy.

Insulin Resistance: A condition in which the body’s cells become less responsive to insulin, resulting in higher blood sugar levels.

Insulin Pump: A small, computerized device that delivers a continuous supply of rapid-acting insulin through a catheter placed under the skin, allowing for more precise blood glucose control in people with diabetes.

Insulin Sensitivity: A measure of how effectively the body’s cells respond to insulin, with higher sensitivity meaning that less insulin is needed to lower blood glucose levels.


Ketones: Organic compounds produced by the liver when the body breaks down fat for energy, which can accumulate in the blood and lead to diabetic ketoacidosis if glucose levels remain high.


Lancet: A small, sharp medical device used to puncture the skin, typically the fingertip, to obtain a blood sample for glucose testing.

Lipohypertrophy: A thickened, rubbery tissue that can develop at insulin injection sites due to the repeated use of the same site. It can cause unpredictable insulin absorption and impact blood sugar control.


Metabolic Syndrome: A group of risk factors, including high blood sugar, high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, and excess body fat around the waist, that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes.

Microalbuminuria: The presence of small amounts of the protein albumin in the urine, which can be an early sign of kidney damage in people with diabetes.

Monofilament Test: A simple test performed by a healthcare professional that checks for loss of sensation in the feet, a common symptom of diabetic neuropathy. It involves pressing a thin, flexible filament against the foot.


Nephropathy: Kidney damage caused by diabetes, which can lead to chronic kidney disease and, eventually, kidney failure if left untreated.


Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT): A test used to diagnose diabetes or prediabetes by measuring the body’s response to a standardized dose of glucose after fasting.


Pancreas: A gland located in the abdomen that produces hormones like insulin and glucagon, as well as digestive enzymes.

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD): A circulatory problem in which narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to the limbs, often affecting the legs and increasing the risk of infection and amputation in people with diabetes.

Podiatrist: A healthcare professional who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of foot disorders, including those related to diabetes, such as ulcers, infections, and neuropathy.

Postprandial Blood Glucose: The level of glucose in the blood measured after a meal, typically around two hours after eating. It helps to evaluate how well the body is managing blood sugar spikes caused by food intake.

Prediabetes: A condition in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as diabetes, increasing the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.


Self-Monitoring of Blood Glucose (SMBG): Regularly testing one’s blood glucose levels at home using a blood glucose meter, which helps individuals with diabetes make decisions about food, exercise, and medication.

Somogyi Effect: A rebound effect in which high morning blood sugar levels occur as a result of the body’s response to low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) during the night. It is also known as “rebound hyperglycemia.”

Sulfonylureas: A class of oral medications for people with Type 2 diabetes that stimulate the pancreas to release more insulin, helping to lower blood sugar levels.


Type 1 Diabetes: An autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system destroys insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas, leading to a lack of insulin and high blood sugar levels.

Type 2 Diabetes: The most common form of diabetes, characterized by insulin resistance and a relative lack of insulin, resulting in high blood sugar levels.

Type 3 Diabetes: An unofficial term sometimes used to describe Alzheimer’s disease, as emerging research suggests that insulin resistance and high blood sugar levels may contribute to the development and progression of the disease.

Thiazolidinediones (TZDs): A class of oral medications for people with Type 2 diabetes that improve insulin sensitivity by targeting the body’s fat cells, making them more responsive to insulin.

Time-in-Range (TIR): The percentage of time a person’s blood glucose levels are within a target range, typically measured by continuous glucose monitoring. TIR provides a more comprehensive view of blood sugar control.

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