We get that part of the struggle of managing diabetes is just understanding the different terms – some of which are not exactly self-explanatory. Use our diabetes dictionary for easy-to-follow definitions of key diabetes terms.
You’ll be an expert sooner than you can say “fasting plasma glucose test”!
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A1c: See HbA1c
Active insulin: Insulin that remains active in the body. In other words, if the insulin is active, then it’s doing its job. When injecting rapid-acting insulin, the insulin will remain active for up to four hours.
Aerobic exercise: The kind of exercise that gets the heart rate up, such as cycling or running. This will usually result in lower blood glucose levels. Also named Cardiovascular exercise or Cardio for short.
Adrenaline: See Epinephrine
Anaerobic exercise: A more intense, usually shorter, kind of exercise that gets a person out of breath quickly, such as weightlifting or sprinting. This will usually result in higher blood glucose levels.
Background insulin: See Insulin, Basal
Basal insulin: See Insulin, Basal
Basal-bolus: The name given to the treatment of taking a combination of both basal insulin doses and bolus insulin doses throughout the day.
Beta cells: The cells in the pancreas that are responsible for creating and secreting insulin.
Blood glucose (BG): Glucose found in the blood. Glucose is found in the blood after carbohydrates are consumed and converted into glucose. Also referred to as Blood sugar.
Blood glucose meter (BGM): A portable machine that gives a reading for a blood glucose level. This is done when a person manually adds a drop of blood to the machine via a test strip.
Blood glucose test strip: A disposable small rectangular strip used together with a blood glucose meter. A drop of blood is placed on one end of the strip, while the other end is inserted into the meter.
Blood glucose unit: The international standard unit for measuring the concentration of glucose in the blood is in mmol/L (millimoles per litre). Also mg/dL (milligrams per decilitre) is used for measuring the concentration of glucose in the blood.
Blood lancet (or simply Lancet): A sharp, thin tool used to prick a hole in the skin. A lancing device automatically pushes the lancet into the skin when a button is pressed.
Blood sugar: See Blood glucose
Bolus: See Insulin, Bolus
Calorie: A unit for measuring energy. The vast majority of foodstuffs provide the body with energy, and so, a calorie is a way of measuring food and measuring how the body burns that energy.
Carbohydrate (often shortened to Carb): A macronutrient that is either sugar or starch. When consumed, carbohydrates are largely converted into glucose that is then found in the blood.
Cardiovascular disease: The name given to conditions that negatively affect the heart or blood vessels.
Cardiovascular exercise: See Aerobic exercise
Continuous glucose monitor (CGM): A small machine attached to the body which continuously measures glucose. With a CGM, the interstitial fluid is measured instead of the blood. From this measurement, the CGM will give an indication of what the blood glucose level is likely to be with some delay.
Correction dose: A dose of fast-acting insulin that corrects high blood glucose in order to bring the blood glucose level back to target level.
Correction factor: See Insulin sensitivity factor
Daily dose: See Total daily dose
Dawn phenomenon: When blood glucose rises in the early morning.
Dextrose: A kind of sugar that acts fast and is chemically identical to the glucose found in the blood. For this reason, many with diabetes carry their own supply of Dextrose tablets or Dextrose gel in case they need to swiftly raise their blood glucose.
Diabetes application: An application, often referred to as an app, and usually for a smartphone, that assists with diabetes management. An example is Hedia Diabetes Assistant.
Diabetes mellitus: The scientific name for what most people simply call diabetes. A condition characterised by high blood glucose levels because the body produces little or no insulin, or is resistant to the effects of insulin. Diabetes mellitus includes both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Epinephrine (also sometimes named Adrenaline): A hormone that the body releases in order to provide more energy. This results in adrenaline telling the liver to release its store of glucose, leading to a rise in blood glucose.
Fasting: A period when not eating. This is often the name given to long periods without food. However, in the context of diabetes, fasting usually refers to any period between meals.
Fasting plasma glucose test: A method for testing whether a person has diabetes. This requires measuring glucose levels after 8 hours of fasting.
Finger prick: A small perforation of the skin on the finger tip in order to get a drop of blood for measuring. This is done with a lancet.
Five-hundred-rule (500-rule): An expression of the insulin-to-carb ratio which calculates how many grams of carbohydrate are covered by one unit of insulin. Namely, the calculation is 500 divided by a person’s total daily dose of insulin.
Gestational diabetes mellitus: Diabetes that affects a woman during her pregnancy. Gestational diabetes is usually gone after the birth of the child.
Glucose: A form of sugar and carbohydrate. In the body, the majority of all carbohydrates consumed are converted into glucose which appears in the blood.
Glycemic index (GI): A way to rank food and drink according to how they affect blood glucose levels. Food with a low GI causes a smaller spike in blood glucose after eating.
HbA1c (sometimes written as Haemoglobin A1c or simply A1c): The name given to glycated haemoglobin: when sugar binds with the haemoglobin in the blood. In more practical terms, those with diabetes have their HbA1c level tested every three to six months. This indicates how the diabetes treatment is going. If the HbA1c levels are too high, it indicates that future medical complications may arise.
High blood sugar: See Hyperglycemia
Honeymoon period: A period that sometimes occurs for those with type 1 diabetes after diagnosis. It is a period where the pancreas is still producing some insulin.
Human insulin: See Insulin, human
Hyperglycemia: When blood glucose levels are too high.
Hypoglycemia: When blood glucose levels are too low.
Insulin: A hormone produced by the pancreas that allows glucose in the blood to enter the cells to be used as energy.
- Insulin, Basal: Also known as Background Insulin. A longer-acting insulin that remains active in the background. It is not taken at meal-time, but is intended to mimic the pancreas’s usual constant secretion of insulin, even when fasting.
- Insulin, Bolus: Rapid-acting insulin that is taken at meal-time, to counteract a large rise in blood glucose.
- Insulin, Human: The name given to synthetic insulin that most people with diabetes currently use for treatment.
- Insulin, Rapid-acting: A kind of insulin that is taken as a bolus. Nowadays, this is the most common kind of insulin for the bolus. It takes 5-15 minutes for rapid-acting insulin to enter the bloodstream.
- Insulin, Regular (Short-acting): A kind of insulin that is taken as a bolus. It takes 30 minutes for regular (short-acting) insulin to enter the bloodstream.
Insulin-dependent diabetes: Any kind of diabetes that relies on insulin treatment. This includes type 1 diabetes as well as type 2 diabetes in some cases .
Insulin on board (IOB): How much insulin is active in the body. This is determined by taking previous bolus insulin injections into account, and calculating how long each dose remains active in the body. This does not include the basal insulin.
Insulin pump: A small machine that delivers short-acting insulin throughout the day. This replaces the need for basal insulin injections, and mimics the pancreas’s secretion of insulin. The insulin is delivered through a needle that remains attached to the body, while the machine is attached to the needle via tubes. Alternatively, the machine can communicate wirelessly with the part attached to the body.
Insulin resistance: When the body becomes less responsive to insulin, which can lead to high blood glucose.
Insulin sensitivity: How sensitive the body is to the effects of insulin. This can change due to different circumstances. For instance, stress or exercise can impact insulin sensitivity in different ways.
Insulin sensitivity factor (also known as Correction factor): The amount of blood glucose lowered by one unit of insulin. This varies from person to person.
Insulin-to-carb ratio: How many grams of carbohydrates are displaced by one unit of insulin. This varies from person to person.
Interstitial fluid: A fluid that surrounds the cells which contains glucose. Used by a continuous glucose monitor for measurements.
Ketoacidosis: When the body has too many ketones (blood acids) as a result of high blood glucose. This can lead to a coma.
Ketone bodies or Ketones: Chemicals used as an energy source by the body. When blood glucose levels are too high, the body starts burning fat as an energy source. The liver turns fat into ketones, which enter the bloodstream, normally to be used by muscles. However, for those with diabetes, the ketones build up in the blood, leading to ketoacidosis.
Lancet: See Blood lancet
Lipid panel: The name given to a blood test for measuring lipids (fats and other fatty substances). The test is taken after nine hours of fasting. People with diabetes are encouraged to take the lipid panel once a year.
Low blood sugar: See Hypoglycemia
Mealtime insulin bolus: An insulin bolus for a meal
mg/dL or Milligrams per decilitre: A measurement of blood glucose levels used in the United States and a handful of other countries.
mmol/L or Millimoles per litre: A measurement of blood glucose levels used internationally.
Nocturnal hypoglycemia or night-time hypos: When blood glucose levels fall below 70 mg/dL while sleeping at night.
One-hundred-rule (100 rule): A formula for calculating the insulin sensitivity factor/correction dose that is applicable for those who use mmol/L as a measurement. Specifically, it calculates how much one unit of fast-acting insulin will lower the blood glucose. The formula is 100 divided by the total daily dose of insulin.
One-thousand-eight-hundred-rule (1800 rule): A formula for calculating the insulin sensitivity factor/correction dose that is applicable for those who use mg/dL as a measurement. Specifically, it calculates how much one unit of fast-acting insulin will lower the blood glucose. The formula is 1800 divided by the total daily dose of insulin.
Pancreas: An organ which is partly responsible for regulating blood glucose levels by releasing insulin and other hormones.
Prediabetes: When blood glucose levels are higher than they should be, but not high enough to be considered diabetes. This is as a result of insulin resistance. It is reversible, but if left untreated, it could lead to type 2 diabetes or other conditions.
Pump: See Insulin pump
Rapid-acting insulin: See Insulin, rapid-acting
Testing: In the context of diabetes, this word refers to testing blood glucose levels, usually either with a blood glucose meter (BGM) or continuous glucose monitor. Some people may prefer to refer to the action as Checking (since a test might imply that a person can either fail or pass, which isn’t the case).
Test strips: See: Blood glucose test strips
Time-in-range: The percentage of time that a person is within their target blood glucose ranges.
Total daily dose (TDD): The total amount of insulin taken in a day, including both basal and bolus insulin.
Type 1 diabetes: A form of diabetes where the pancreas produces little or no insulin. Type 1 diabetes was sometimes previously referred to as Juvenile diabetes or Insulin-dependent diabetes, which are no longer considered accurate (it is not only young people who can get type 1 diabetes, and type 1 is not the only kind of diabetes that can require insulin treatment).
Type 2 diabetes: A form of diabetes where the body has become resistant to the effects of insulin. This was previously known as Adult-onset diabetes, which is no longer considered an accurate name (since it would imply that only children can have another type of diabetes, which isn’t the case).
Unit of insulin: The measurement of insulin used for insulin injections.
Want more explanations? Then have a browse of Hedia’s blog where we discuss different aspects of diabetes, from sleeping to alcohol!