Diabetes Dictionary

This quick reference is your comprehensive lookup of diabetes terms and their meanings.

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Adrenal glands -  Glands located at the top of each kidney that secrete important hormones for the function of many organ systems in the body.
Adrenaline -  One of the secretions of the adrenal glands. It helps the liver release glucose (sugar) and limit the release of insulin. It also makes the heart beat faster and can raise blood pressure.
Alpha Cells -  Alpha cells are found in the pancreas. They produce a hormone called glucagon, which raises blood glucose levels.
Antibodies -  Proteins that the body makes to protect itself from foreign substances.
Antibody -  A special kind of protein made by the immune system that is released in response to something foreign in the body eg. virus. Antibodies help fight infection.
Autoimmunity -  Pertaining to development of an immune response to one's own tissue.
Basal Bolus Injections -  Insulin injections four times a day.
Beta Cells -  Cells in the pancreas that make the hormone insulin.
Biopsy -  Removal of a small amount of tissue or fluid from the body, examined under a microscope to determine whether disease is present.
Blood Glucose Level (BGL) -  The amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood stream.
Blood Glucose Meter -  A device used to measure blood glucose levels.
Bovine (beef) insulin -  Insulin extracted from the pancreas of cattle. Has been replaced by human insulin.
Cannula -  A small tube that is inserted into the body to assist in various methods of insulin delivery eg. pumps, insuflon.
Carbohydrate -  A nutrient in food that provides a major source of energy. Usually found in grains, fruits, starchy vegetables and dairy foods. Is broken down to glucose in the blood stream and raises blood glucose levels
Cholestero -  A fatty waxy substance made by the body and also found in some foods. High levels of cholesterol in the blood stream are a risk factor for heart disease.
Coeliac Disease -  A condition where there is an intolerance to gluten, a protein found in foods that causes damage to the small intestine.
Complications -  The long term effects of uncontrolled diabetes on the body.
Convulsion -  A fit or seizure that can be a symptom of severe or untreated hypoglycaemia.
Dawn Phenomenon -  This occurs when BGLs rise in the early hours of the morning due to the natural release of the hormones cortisol and adrenaline.
Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT) -  A 10-year study (1983 - 1993) in the United States to assess the effects of intensive therapy on the long–term complications of diabetes.
Diabetes Dietitian -  A health professional who provides advice on the dietary management of diabetes.
Diabetes Educator -  A health professional who specialises in providing education about the management of diabetes.
Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) -  A sudden loss of control of type 1 diabetes with high blood glucose levels and breakdown of fat leading to a build up of acids in the blood with nausea, vomiting and dehydration. Without urgent medical attention, DKA can lead to coma and death.
Endocrinologist -  A doctor who specialises in the management of diseases of the glands, including the adrenal, thyroid, pituitary, parathyroid glands, ovaries, testicles and pancreas.
Enzymes -  A special protein made in the body that assists with naturally occurring biological functions of the body.
Erectile Dysfunction (Impotence) -  The loss of a man’s ability to have an erection. Some men may become impotent after having diabetes for a long time because the nerves or blood vessels have become damaged. Sometimes the problem has nothing to do with diabetes and may be treated with counselling.
Fats -  One of the three main classes of foods and a source of energy in the body. Fats help the body use some vitamins and keep the skin healthy. They also serve as energy stores for the body. In food, there are three types of fats: saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated.
Fibre -  A substance found in foods that come from plants. Fibre helps in the digestive process and is thought to lower cholesterol and help control blood glucose (sugar). The two types of fibre in food are soluble and insoluble.
Fit -  A convulsion or seizure that can be a symptom of severe or untreated hypoglycaemia.
Gastroparesis -  A complication of diabetes that causes delayed digestion resulting in unpredictable swings in blood glucose levels

The body’s main source of energy.
Glucagon -  A hormone made by the pancreas that causes the liver to release glucose from body stores. Manufactured glucagon is injected to raise blood glucose levels in a person with severe hypoglycaemia.
Glycaemic Index -  A ranking of carbohydrate foods according to their effect on blood glucose levels.

Glycemic Response
The effect of different foods on blood glucose (sugar) levels over a period of time.
Glycemic Load -  The predicted effect of a food on blood glucose levels that takes into account glycemic index and total available carbohydrate.
Glycogen -  The body’s stores of glucose in the liver and muscle which release glucose (sugar) into the blood when needed by cells. Glycogen is the chief source of stored fuel in the body.
HbA1c -  A test to identify the average blood glucose level over the last 2-3 months. Also known as glycosylated haemoglobin, this test measures the amount of glucose that attaches to red blood cells which depends on how much glucose is in the bloodstream. If BGLs have been high over the 2-3 month period, more glucose will attach to the red blood cells and HbA1c will be high. If BGLs are mostly within the recommended range, then HbA1c will be closer to the desired level.
Honeymoon Period -  A remission phase after the diagnosis of type 1 diabetes when there is partial, temporary recovery of insulin production by the pancreas. The amount of injected insulin required to manage diabetes is significantly reduced. The honeymoon period may last a few months to a year.
Hormone -  Hormones are chemicals released by special cells that tell other cells what to do. For instance, insulin is a hormone made by the beta cells in the pancreas. When released, insulin tells other cells to use glucose (sugar) for energy.
Human Insulin -  Insulin that has been manufactured to be identical to that produced naturally in the human pancreas.
Hyperglycaemia -  Blood glucose levels higher than the desirable range.
Hyperlipidemia -  Too high a level of fats (lipids) in the blood.
Hypoglycaemia -  Blood glucose levels lower than the desirable range.
IDDM -  Insulin dependant diabetes mellitus, now known as type 1 diabetes.
Immune system -  A system of the body that provides protection from infection.
Infusion Set -  Consists of a length of thin plastic tubing with a lock connector at one end, attached to a very small cannula placed under the skin. It is connected to the insulin pump and used to deliver insulin to the body.
Infusion Site -  The place on the body where the infusion set needle is inserted under the skin.
Injection -  The introduction of medication into the body with a delivery device eg. needle and syringe, pen, pump. A person with diabetes injects insulin by putting the needle into the tissue under the skin (called subcutaneous). Other ways of giving medicine or nourishment by injection are putting the needle into a vein (intravenous/IV) or putting the needle into a muscle (intramuscular/IM).
Injection Site -  The place on the body where the insulin is injected.

A hormone made by the pancreas that is responsible for controlling blood glucose levels.
Insulin Resistance -  The inability of the body to recognise and use insulin as it should.
Intramuscular -  Into the muscle.
Juvenile Onset Diabetes -  Another name for type 1 diabetes.
Ketones -  Acids in the blood formed when body fat is used instead of glucose to provide energy.
Lancets -  A sharp needle like device used to prick the skin to test the blood glucose level.
Lipohypertrophy -  Fatty lumps that form when insulin is constantly injected into the same area.
Long acting insulin -  Insulin that is absorbed slowly into the body after injection. Commonly used in conjunction with short acting insulin in the management of type 1 diabetes in children.
Macrovascular -  Referring to the large blood vessels of the body.
Metformin -  A tablet that lowers blood glucose levels by blocking the release of glucose from the liver. Usually used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes, sometimes used for weight management in children with type 1 diabetes in conjunction with insulin.
Microalbuminuria -  Leakage of small amounts of protein into the urine.
Microvascular -  Referring to the small blood vessels of the body.
Millimole (mmol) -  A unit for measuring the concentration of glucose and other substances in the blood.
Monounsaturated fat -  A healthy fat that may help reduce the risk of heart disease. Found in olive and canola oil, nuts and avocadoes.
NDSS -  The National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS) is a Federal Government funded initiative, administered on behalf of the Government by Diabetes Australia. For further information see Advocacy and Support.
Nephropathy -  Damage to the kidneys.
Neuropathy -  Damage to parts of the nervous system.
NIDDM -  Non Insulin Dependant Diabetes Mellitus, now known as type 2 diabetes.
Paediatric Endocrinologist -  A doctor who specialises in the management of diseases of the glands, including the adrenal, thyroid, pituitary, parathyroid glands, ovaries, testicles and pancreas in children.
Pancreas -  A gland or organ behind the stomach that produces hormones such as insulin.
Peadiatric -  About children.
Polydipsia -  Polydipsia
Excessive thirst and drinking large amounts of water.
Polyunsaturated fat -  A healthy fat that may help reduce the risk of heart disease. Found in fish, vegetable oils such as sunflower oil, nuts and seeds.
Polyuria -  Passing large amounts of urine due to excess glucose in the blood stream.
Porcine (pork) insulin -  Insulin extracted from the pancreas of pigs. Has been replaced by human insulin.
Post-prandial -  After a meal.
Protein -  A nutrient in food that is important for growth, development and repair of tissues. Food high in protein include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, legumes and dairy foods.
Retinopathy -  Damage to the small blood vessels at the back of the eye.
Saturated fat -  A type of fat that has been shown to increase the risk of heart disease. Found in animal foods such as butter, full fat dairy foods, and fatty meats, as well as many processed and takeaway foods.
Sharps -  A word commonly used to describe syringes, pen needles and lancets used by people with diabetes which require safe disposal after use.
Short acting insulin -  Insulin that is absorbed quickly into the body after injection. Commonly used in conjunction with long acting insulin in the management of type 1 diabetes in children.
Sliding Scale -  A method of insulin adjustment based on blood glucose levels.
Social Worker -  A health professional who helps families cope with the diagnosis of diabetes and the impact on family life.
Subcutaneous -  Underneath the skin.
Thyroid -  A large gland located at the base of the neck that releases an important hormone for the control of normal growth and development in children, and maintenance of normal metabolism in adults.
Type 1 diabetes -  Also known as insulin dependent diabetes, occurs when the pancreas stops making insulin. Requires daily insulin injections for survival.
Type 2 diabetes -  Also known as non- insulin dependent diabetes, occurs when there is either insufficient insulin or the insulin produced does not work effectively.
Ultra short acting insulin -  These insulins are absorbed after injection and have a shorter duration than short acting insulins eg. Humalog and Novorapid.

A method of measurement eg. insulin dose.