Diabetes Dictionary

To look up a word, use Find in your browser's toolbar. If you feel there are words which should be included, please email us your suggestions.






















ADRENALIN is a hormone released by the body in reaction to stress. It prepares the body for "flight or fight." Adrenalin has widespread effects on circulation and muscles, and causes an increase in blood glucose levels. 

ADULT-ONSET DIABETES is the former term for non-insulin dependent, or Type 2 diabetes. This term is no longer in use because, although this condition usually occurs after 40 years of age, it may develop much earlier. 

ALPHA CELLS are found in the Islets of Langerhans within your pancreas. They are responsible for producing glucagon, a hormone which causes an increase in the blood sugar level. 

AMPUTATION is the surgical removal of a limb or part of a limb. People with diabetes are at increased risk for gangrene due to nerve damage in the legs and feet, which is often treated through amputation. 

ANTIOXIDANTS are chemicals that are added to foods containing fat to prevent oxygen from combining with the fatty molecules. Oxidation would cause the fatty food to become rancid. 

ANTIBODIES are proteins that the body produces to fight off foreign substances such as bacteria, viruses and transplanted organs. Rarely, the body may make antibodies against insulin. These antibodies can prevent the insulin from working properly. 

ARTERIOSCLEROSIS is the hardening and narrowing of the arteries that occurs as people age. 

AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE is a disorder in which a person's own antibodies destroy body tissues, such as the beta cells in the pancreas. 

BEEF-PORK INSULIN is derived from the pancreas of cows and pigs. It is now used less often than Human Insulin in the treatment of diabetes. 

BETA CELLS are found in the Islets of Langerhans in the pancreas. Their function is to produce insulin.  

BLOOD GLUCOSE METER is a hand-held machine designed to test blood glucose levels. A drop of blood from your finger is placed on a small strip of material, which is then inserted into the meter for analysis. The meter calculates and displays the blood glucose level. 

BLOOD PRESSURE refers to the pressure exerted by blood flow on artery walls. A 120/80 reading is considered normal. High blood pressure can cause health problems such as heart attacks and strokes. 

BODY MASS INDEX (BMI) is a unit of measurement to describe weight in relation to height for people 20 to 65 years of age. It indicates whether a person's size is in the low, moderate or high zone for developing health problems. Values between 20 and 25 are associated with the lowest risk of illness. Values between 25 and 27 are considered to be in a "caution zone" and may be associated with health problems. Values below 20 or over 27 indicate that a person is at higher risk of illness. 

BUNION is a bulge on the first joint of the big toe caused by swelling under the skin. Bunions can lead to serious foot infections if not treated properly. 

CALLOUS is a common, usually painless, thickening of the skin on the feet or hands, at points of external pressure or friction. 

CALORIE is a measurement of the energy provided by food. The sources of calories in a diet are carbohydrate, protein, alcohol and fat. Calories that are not consumed as energy are stored as fat. 

CAPILLARY is the smallest blood vessel. Capillary walls are so thin that oxygen and glucose can pass through them and enter the cells. Waste products, such as carbon dioxide, pass back into the bloodstream via the capillaries to be carried away and expelled from the body. In people with long-standing diabetes, the capillaries, especially in the kidneys and the retina of the eye, can become weak. 

CARBOHYDRATE one of three major sources of calories in the diet. It comes primarily from sugar (found in refined fruits and vegetables) and starch (found in grains and legumes). Carbohydrate breaks down into glucose during digestion and raises blood glucose levels. 

CATARACTS are a grey-white film that can cover the lens of the eye, obscuring vision. They tend to occur in people over 50 years of age, but can occur at a younger age and advance more rapidly in the presence of diabetes. If left untreated, cataracts can cause blindness. 

CHOLESTEROL is a type of fat which occurs naturally in our bodies and is also found in animal fats. Too much saturated fat and dietary cholesterol can cause the blood cholesterol to rise and collect along the inside walls of blood vessels as fatty build-up. 

CHRONIC refers to a condition that is present over long periods of time. Diabetes is a chronic condition. 

COMA is a state of unconsciousness. It can result from a variety of causes including severe hypoglycaemia or severe ketoacidosis. 

C-PEPTIDE is a protein released by the pancreas into the bloodstream. The body releases equal amounts of C-peptide and insulin; therefore a test of C-peptide levels indicates the amount of insulin being produced by the pancreas. 

CREATININE is a compound present in the muscles and blood that is passed in the urine. A "creatinine clearance test" measures the amount of creatinine in the blood or urine, and is an indicator of how well the kidneys are functioning. 

DEHYDRATION is a state in which the body tissues are deprived of water. It can occur when the blood sugar levels are high for long periods of time. It can also result from inadequate water intake, or excessive sweating, vomiting or diarrhea. Symptoms of dehydration include extreme thirst, nausea and exhaustion. 

DIABETIC RETINOPATHY is a disease in which the small blood vessels (capillaries) in the back of the eye (retina) are damaged. If untreated, it can lead to blindness. 

DIABETES is a condition in which the body either cannot produce insulin or cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. 

DIABETES CONTROL AND COMPLICATIONS TRIAL (DDCT) is a study designed to test whether persistently high blood sugar levels are related to the development of complications in people with insulin-dependent diabetes. The results demonstrated that intensive treatment of individuals with insulin-dependent diabetes delays the onset and progression of long-term complications in people without complications or in the early stages of complications. 

DIALYSIS is a method of removing waste products, such as urea, from the blood when the kidneys no longer function adequately. 

DIETITIAN is an expert in nutrition who helps people plan the kinds and amounts of foods to eat for special health needs. 

ENDOCRINOLOGIST is a medical doctor who specializes in treating people who have problems related to their endocrine glands, such as the pancreas. 

EDEMA is the swelling or puffiness caused by water collecting in the tissues. It often occurs in the ankles. 

EPIDEMIOLOGY is the study of disease patterns. Epidemiologists examine who contracts diseases, how they spread, methods of control and cultural determinants. 

FAMILIAL OCCURRENCE refers to the pattern of a disease within a family. Family and twin studies have shown that Type 2 diabetes is far more likely to run in families than Type 1 diabetes. 

FAT is the most concentrated source of calories in a diet. Saturated fats are found primarily in animal products and unsaturated fats come from plants. Excess intake of fat, especially saturated fat, can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. 

FIBER is the part of plants that the body cannot digest, such as fruit and vegetable skins. Fiber aids in the functioning of the digestive system. 

GANGRENE is the death of body tissues due to poor blood supply. 

GESTATIONAL DIABETES develops during pregnancy. It occurs when the mother's blood glucose level rises due to hormone secretions and she cannot produce enough insulin to handle the higher blood glucose levels. Although gestational diabetes usually does not last after pregnancy, women who have had gestational diabetes are at a high risk to eventually develop Type 2 diabetes. 

GLUCAGON is a hormone produced by the pancreas that raises blood glucose levels. A severe insulin reaction can be treated with an injection of glucagon. 

GLUCAGON HYDROCHLORIDE is an injectional substance used to treat a hypoglycaemic coma. It is often administered by a family member or friend in an emergency. 

GLUCOSE is a simple form of sugar that acts as fuel for the body. It is produced during digestion of carbohydrate and carried to the cells in the blood. 

GLYCOGEN is the main carbohydrate storage material, which is stored in the liver and muscles for use when energy is required. 

GLYCOSYLATED HEMOGLOBIN (HbA1c) is a measure of how well you are controlling your diabetes. Blood glucose binds to hemoglobin through a process called glycosylation. The higher the blood sugar the more glucose binds to the hemoglobin. A blood test can measure the amount of glycosylation that has occurred revealing the average blood glucose levels for the previous three to four months before the test.  

HONEYMOON PERIOD, also know as the remission stage, is a period of time after the diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes when the dose of insulin may need to be reduced due to remaining or recovered insulin secretion from the pancreas. This period can last weeks, months or years. 

HORMONES are the chemical substances, such as insulin, released by a gland into the bloodstream. They are responsible for controlling such functions as metabolism, growth, sex development and blood sugar levels. 

HUMAN INSULIN is a synthetic product that can eliminate the allergic reactions that occur with the use of animal insulins in some people with Type 1 diabetes 

HYPERGLYCAEMIA (also HYPERGLYCEMIA) is a condition caused by greater than normal levels of glucose in the blood. 

HYPERLIPOPROTEINEMIA is the presence in the blood of abnormally high levels of lipoproteins. Lipoproteins are proteins, found in the blood and lymph systems, that combine with fats and other lipids, such as cholesterol, to allow for the transport of the lipids through the body. 

HYPERTENSION is the medical term for high blood pressure. 

HYPOGLYCAEMIA (also HYPOGLYCEMIA) is a condition in which blood glucose levels drop too low (below 3.5 mmol/L). Typical symptoms include sweating, trembling, hunger, dizziness, moodiness, confusion and numbness in the arms and hands. 

IMPOTENCE is a form of sexual dysfunction in which a man is unable to obtain an erection. Some men with long-term diabetes may experience impotence due to nerve damage. Impotence is also caused by factors that are not related to diabetes. 

INSULIN is a hormone produced by the beta cells of the pancreas. It helps to regulate the amount of glucose in the blood. If the pancreas is unable to produce insulin, a person develops Type 1 diabetes and must administer insulin through injections. If the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, or the body cannot metabolize the insulin that is produced, a person develops Type 2 diabetes and may require oral medication or insulin injections. 

INSULIN LIPODYSTROPHY is the loss of fatty tissue that can occur around insulin injection sites. 

INSULIN PUMP is a portable, battery-operated device that delivers a specific amount of insulin through the abdominal wall. It can be programmed to deliver different doses at different times of the day, according to the body's needs. 

INSULIN RECEPTORS are areas on the outer walls of a cell that permit insulin to bind to the cell. When cells and insulin bind together, the cell is able to take glucose from the bloodstream and use it for energy. 

INSULIN SHOCK is the effect caused by an overdose of insulin, a decreased amount of food or increased exercise. Symptoms include sweating, trembling, hunger, dizziness, moodiness, confusion and numbness in the arms and hands. This condition is also referred to as an insulin reaction or hypoglycaemia. 

ISCHEMIA is an inadequate supply of blood to body tissues or organs. It can occur if blood vessels are narrowed or constricted. 

ISLET OF LANGERHANS are clusters of cells in the pancreas that produce insulin and glucagon. 

JUVENILE-ONSET DIABETES is the former term for insulin-dependent, or Type 1 diabetes. 

KETONES are chemicals produced by the liver when the body cannot use glucose and must break down fat for energy. Ketones can poison and even kill body cells. When ketones build up, the body gets rid of them in the urine. Ketones that accumulate in the body over long periods of time can lead to serious illness and coma. 

KETOACIDOSIS is a severe condition caused by lack of insulin or an elevation in stress hormones. It is marked by high blood glucose levels and ketones in the urine. 

LASER TREATMENTS use a special strong beam of light to heal a damaged area, such as the retina in diabetic retinopathy. 

mg/dL is the abbreviated form of milligrams per decilitre, a term used to describe how much glucose is present in a specific amount of blood. A reading of 70 to 110 mg/dL is considered to be within the normal range. This gulcose measurement is used in the United States. To convert from mg/dl to the Canadian unit of mmol/L divide by 18. 

mmol/L is the abbreviated form of millimoles per litre, a term used to describe how much glucose is present in a specific amount of blood. A reading of 4 to 6.5 mmol/L is considered to be within the normal range. This unit of measurement is used in Canada. To convert mmol/L to mg/dl multiply by 18. 

MORBIDITY RATE is the rate of people who have a specific illness compared to the number of people who do not. 

MORTALITY RATE is the rate of people who die from a specific illness in relation to the total population. Mortality rates are usually expressed as the number of deaths per 1,000, 10,000 or 100,000 persons. 

NEPHROLOGIST is a medical doctor who treats people with kidney diseases. 

NEPHROPATHY is any disease of the kidneys caused by damage to the small blood vessels that filter and clean the blood. Kidney damage is a potential complication of a long-standing disease, such as diabetes. 

NEUROPATHY is any disease of the peripheral nervous system. Although nerve damage may affect many parts of the body, people with diabetes often experience pain, numbness or tingling in their feet and legs. Other manifestations of nerve damage include double vision, diarrhea paralysis of the bladder and loss of feeling or response in sexual activity. 

OBESITY is an abnormally excessive amount of body fat. Obesity is usually accompanied by other signs of poor health and is a risk factor for Type 2 diabetes. 

OPHTHALMOLOGIST is a medical doctor who specializes in treatment and care of the eyes. 

ORAL AGENTS are medications, taken by mouth, that lower blood glucose levels. They are often used in the treatment of Type 2 diabetes. 

ORAL GLUCOSE TOLERANCE TEST (OGTT) is a test of the body's ability to metabolize carbohydrate. It is performed by giving a standard dose of glucose and measuring the blood and urine for glucose at regular intervals. 

PEDIATRICIAN (also PEDIATRIST) is a medical doctor who specializes in the treatment of children. 

PODIATRIST is a medical doctor who specializes in the care and treatment of the foot. 

POST-PRANDIAL means "after mealtime". 

PROTEIN is one of three major sources of calories in a diet. Found in meats, eggs, milk and some vegetables and starches, protein provides the body with material for building blood cells, hormones and body tissue. 

SUGAR is a simple form of carbohydrate that provides calories and raises blood glucose levels. 

TYPE 1 DIABETES (or insulin-dependent diabetes) occurs when the pancreas is unable to produce insulin. It is caused by the destruction of the beta cells in the pancreas by the body's immune system. It usually develops in childhood or adolescence but may appear at any age. 

TYPE 2 DIABETES (or non-insulin-dependent diabetes) occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to meet the body's needs or the insulin is not metabolized effectively. Type 2 diabetes is usually treated through diet and exercise, although some people must also take oral medications or insulin. 

ULCER is a crater-like lesion on a body tissue, often on the feet or stomach, that can cause extreme discomfort or pain. 

URINE TESTS measure substances, such as blood glucose or ketones, present in the urine. 

VASCULAR DISEASE is a disease of the blood vessels and arteries, including decreased blood flow due to fatty build-up.