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Glossary of diabetes terms

Click one of the letters below to advance the page to terms beginning with that letter.


Antibodies produced by an organism that act against the organism’s own tissues.
(disease or condition): a disease or condition caused by autoantibodies.


Bad cholesterol
(see cholesterol)
Bariatric surgery
Bariatric surgery is an operation that helps you lose weight by making changes to your digestive system.
Basal insulin
sometimes called background insulin, it’s long-acting insulin that helps control blood glucose levels during periods of fasting, for example, while you’re asleep.
Beta cells
The beta-cell is one of four major types of cells present in the islets of Langerhans, which are islands of cells distributed throughout the endocrine pancreas.
Blood glucose levels
(see glucose): blood glucose, or sugar, levels are the amount of glucose in human blood.
Blood pressure
The force of circulating blood on the walls of the arteries. Blood pressure is taken using two measurements: systolic (measured when the heart beats, when blood pressure is at its highest) and diastolic (measured between heart beats, when blood pressure is at its lowest).
Body Mass Index (BMI)
Body Mass Index (BMI) is a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters. A high BMI can be an indicator of high body fatness.
Bolus (mealtime) insulin rates
An extra amount of insulin taken to cover an expected rise in blood glucose, often related to a meal or snack.


C-peptide test
Measures the C-peptide in the blood or urine. Used to detect Type 1 diabetes.
CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy)
Talking treatment that concentrates on your thoughts, beliefs and attitudes that affect the way you feel and your behaviour.
The amount of heat needed at a pressure of one atmosphere to raise the temperature of one gram of water one degree. It’s used to measure the energy-producing value of food.
A small, flexible tube put into a vein for medication to be administered.
One of the three main food groups and a source of energy. Carbohydrates are mainly sugars and starches that the body breaks down into glucose (a simple sugar that the body can use to feed its cells).
(see podiatrist)
A type of fat produced by the liver and found in the blood; it is also found in some foods. Cholesterol is used by the body to make hormones and build cell walls.
Continuous glucose monitor (CGM)
CGM works through a tiny sensor inserted under your skin, usually on your stomach or arm. The sensor measures your interstitial glucose level, which is the glucose found in the fluid between the cells. The sensor tests glucose every few minutes. A transmitter wirelessly sends the information to a monitor or connected insulin pump.


A doctor who specialises in diabetes
A qualified health professional who can help with special dietary and nutritional needs.


Encapsulated islet cells
Islet transplantation is a cell replacement therapy that involves transplantation of isolated islets to people especially with type 1 diabetes. Islet cells are groups of cells located in the pancreas that make hormones that help the body break down and use food.
A doctor specialising in the treatment of hormone-related diseases.
Environmental factors
Factors in the environment, for example, temperature, pollution, or any external influence that affects your health or wellbeing.
Erectile dysfunction (ED/impotence)
ED is defined as trouble getting or keeping an erection that's firm enough for sex.


Fasting plasma glucose test
Screening test for diabetes that measures blood glucose levels after fasting for at least 8 hours.
Finger-prick test
A procedure in which a finger is pricked with a lancet to obtain a small quantity of capillary blood for testing.
(see seizure)
Flash glucose monitor (FGM)
provides a glucose reading when the user scans the sensor using a hand-held scanner device or a Near Field Communication (NFC) enabled smart phone. The current glucose level along with historic glucose data for the last 8 hours is displayed on the scanner/smartphone. Unlike CGMs a FGM cannot provide an alarm.


(Glutamic acid decarboxylase autoantibodies) test: a blood test to detect the GAD antibody which attacks the pancreas in people with Type 1 diabetes.
Genetic factors
when risk factors of disease are determined by your family history.
Genetic risk
the probability of someone carrying a specific disease-associated mutation or affected with a specific genetic disorder.
Genital itching
itching in the genital region caused by skin irritation, sexually transmitted diseases, allergies and infections (see Thrush).
(blood glucose): from the Greek word ‘sweet’ it’s a type of sugar that’s converted from the food we eat to energy in the body. In the bloodstream, it’s known as blood glucose or blood sugar.
Glycaemic control
maintaining blood glucose (sugar) levels.


substance in red blood cells that combines with and carries oxygen around the body.
HbA1c levels
the haemoglobin A1c test reads the average blood glucose level over the past 2-3 months.
HbA1c test
a blood test to show average blood glucose (sugar) levels for the last two to three months.
Heart disease (coronary heart disease)
(coronary heart disease) A disease in which there is a narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries (blood vessels that carry blood and oxygen to the heart). It’s usually caused by atherosclerosis (a build-up of fatty material and plaque inside the coronary arteries). The disease may cause chest pain, shortness of breath during exercise, and heart attacks.
a chemical produced by the body to control and regulate cell or organ activity.
high (hyper) glucose (gly) in the blood (emia).
low (hypo) glucose (gly) in the blood (emia).


Immune system
a network of cells, tissues, organs and the substances they produce to enable us to fight infections and disease. It includes white blood cells and the lymph system.
the administration of intravenous fluids.
a hormone produced by the pancreas to control glucose (sugar) levels in the blood and enables cells to use this for energy.
Insulin pen
a device for injecting insulin in a measured amount.
Insulin pump
an insulin-delivery device about the size of a credit card that can be worn on a belt or kept in a pouch or pocket. An insulin pump connects to narrow, flexible plastic tubing that ends with a needle inserted just under the skin. Users set the pump to give a steady dose of basal insulin continuously throughout the day. Pumps release bolus doses of insulin (several units at a time) at meals and at times when blood glucose is too high, based on the user’s pump programming.
Insulin resistance
when cells don’t react normally to insulin so can’t take glucose from the blood.
Insulin sensitivity factor
(ISF): describes how much one unit of rapid/regular insulin will lower blood glucose.
tumour in the pancreas that produces excessive insulin.
Interstitial fluid
fluid that is found around cells, helping to bring oxygen and nutrients to cells and remove waste products.
Islet transplant
transplantation of islet cells that produce insulin from a donor pancreas.
also know and islet cells. Found in the pancreas, these contain hormone-producing cells.


a complication, usually of Type 1 diabetes, when your body runs out of insulin and your blood glucose gets too high.
chemicals made by the liver when there’s not enough insulin in the body to convert glucose to energy. The body uses fat as a source instead and your liver turns fat into ketones, an acid, which goes into the bloodstream. Normally, this isn’t a problem but if you have diabetes, you can build up too many ketones and this can be life-threatening.


Metabolic disorder
when your body has abnormal chemical reactions that disrupt its ability to get or make energy from food you eat.
millimoles per litre: a measure of blood glucose levels.


(peripheral neuropathy): damage to nerves, causing numbness or tingling. Peripheral neuropathy affects the hands, feet and arms.


usually defined as being more than 20% above your ideal weight - having a BMI of 30 and above.
a medically trained eye doctor who acts both as physician and surgeon.
Oral glucose tolerance test
(GTT or oGTT): a test to diagnose pre-diabetes and diabetes. The oral glucose tolerance test is given by a healthcare professional after an overnight fast. A blood sample is taken, then the patient drinks a high-glucose beverage. Blood samples are taken at intervals for 2 to 3 hours. Test results are compared with a standard and show how the body uses glucose over time.


relating to the medical care of children.
palpitations are feelings or sensations that your heart is pounding or racing. They can be felt in your chest, throat, or neck.
spongy, tubular organ at the back of the abdomen behind the stomach.
Pancreas transplant
operation to give someone a donor pancreas from someone who has died. It enables people with Type 1 diabetes to produce insulin again.
healthcare professional licensed to prepare and dispenses prescription drugs.
healthcare professionals trained to diagnose and treat conditions of the feet and legs.
extreme thirst.
excessive urination (at least 2.5 litres a day).
when your blood glucose levels are high, but not so high to be defined as diabetes.
a person specialising in the human mind and the treatment of mental, emotional and behavioural disorders.


Random blood glucose test
a test to check blood glucose (sugar) levels that doesn’t involve fasting.
period when an illness is less severe or doesn’t affect you.
a complication caused by high glucose levels when the back of the eye (retina) is damaged. It can cause blindness if undiagnosed or untreated.


SGLT2 inhibitors
medications to treat Type 2 diabetes, they prevent reabsorption of glucose from blood filtered through the kidneys, helping glucose excretion in the urine.
a burst of electrical activity in the brain that temporarily affects how a person appears or acts for a short time.
when the body has an extreme response to an infection, which can cause tissue damage, organ failure and death.
Signs and symptoms
abnormalities that suggest a medical condition.
a disease that affects the arteries leading to and within the brain, resulting in a life-threatening medical condition.


Target range
recommended blood glucose levels.
hormone found in men. It controls male physical features and it’s made in the testes (testicles).
a common yeast infection affecting genital areas, mouth, throat or other areas in men and women.
drug titration is the adjustment of medication based on the patient’s response.
toxic substance produced by living cells.
Type 2 diabetes
a condition when blood glucose levels become too high.


Urinary tract infection
(UTI): an infection in the urinary tract (bladder, urethra, kidneys).


Viral infection
an infection caused by a virus.
an organism that lives inside host cells and reproduces causing a viral infection. They include the common cold, flu, Ebola and HIV. They can lead to sepsis.

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