American Diabetes Association Complete Guide to Diabetes: The Ultimate Home Reference from the Diabetes Experts

Key Terms

A1C Test: A test that shows a person’s average blood glucose level over the past 2–3 months, usually shown as a percentage. The A1C test measures the amount of glycosylated hemoglobin in the blood (also called hemoglobin A1C, glycated hemoglobin, or HbA1C). It can also be used to diagnose diabetes.

Aerobic Exercise: Rapid physical activity that stresses the heart, lungs, arms, legs, and the rest of the body; typically causes harder breathing and faster heart rate; examples include dancing, jogging, running, swimming, walking, or bicycling.

American with Disabilities Act: A federal law that protects qualified individuals with disabilities who work in the private sector or for state and local governments from discrimination.

Anorexia: An eating disorder in which people refrain from eating in order to stay thin. Their perception of their body is often out of tune with reality. Even very thin women and men sometimes perceive themselves as being overweight.

Atherosclerosis: Clogging, narrowing, and hardening of the body’s large arteries and medium-sized blood vessels; can lead to coronary artery disease, resulting in stroke, heart attack, eye problems, and kidney problems.

Autoantibody: A self-recognizing antibody that targets the cells of the body; indicates a risk that the body’s immune system may attack itself.

Basal Insulin: An intermediate- or long-acting insulin that is absorbed slowly and gives the body a slow, low level of insulin to manage blood glucose levels between meals, thus mimicking the body’s natural low-level steady background release of insulin; also called background insulin.

Bolus Insulin: An extra amount of insulin taken to cover an expected rise in blood glucose, often related to a meal or snack.

Bulimia: An eating disorder in which people will often eat normal or even excessive amounts of food and then purge the food by inducing vomiting or taking laxatives. Over time, bulimia can cause problems with the esophagus, as well as many dental problems.

Carbohydrate Counting: A method of meal planning for people with diabetes based on counting the number of grams of carbohydrate in food.

Cardiovascular Disease: A disease of the heart and blood vessels (arteries, veins, and capillaries).

COBRA: The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) requires that an employer with more than 20 employees allow you and your dependants to keep your same health insurance policy with equal coverage for 18 months (sometimes longer) after you leave your job.

Congressional Accountability Act: A federal law that provides the same coverage for employees of the legislative branch of the federal government.

Diabetes Educator: A health care professional who teaches people with diabetes how to manage their disease. A diabetes educator can also be a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE). This means he or she has additional expertise in all areas of diabetes care and has successfully passed a national exam.

Diabetes Medical Management Plan: An individualized plan for your child’s health developed by you and your child’s health care team. It may also be referred to as a health care plan or physician’s orders or another name.

Diabetic Ketoacidosis: An emergency condition in which extreme hyperglycemia (high blood glucose), along with a severe lack of insulin, results in accumulation of ketones in the blood and urine. Signs are nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, fruity odor on the breath, and rapid breathing. If left untreated, it can lead to coma and death.

Endocrinologist: A doctor who treats people who have endocrine gland problems, such as diabetes.

Erectile Dysfunction (ED): The inability to get or maintain an erection for sexual activity; a complication of diabetes that is usually treated with medication; also called impotence.

Exercise Physiologist: A specialist trained in the science of exercise and body conditioning who can help patients plan a safe, effective exercise program.

Gene: The basic biological unit of heredity composed of a sequence of DNA.

Glucagon: A hormone produced by the alpha cells in the pancreas that raises blood glucose levels. An injectable form of glucagon, available by prescription, may be used to treat severe hypoglycemia.

Glucose Tablet: A chewable tablet made of pure glucose used to treat hypoglycemia.

Glucose: A simple sugar found in the blood that serves as the body’s main source of energy.

Glycemic Index (GI): A ranking of carbohydrate-containing foods, based on the food’s effect on blood glucose when compared with a standard reference food.

Heart Attack: An interruption in the blood supply to the heart because of narrowed or blocked blood vessels, causing muscle damage and sometimes death; also called myocardial infarction.

HIPAA: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 ensures that insurers and employers may not make insurance rules that discriminate against workers because of their health. The act makes it easier for people with diabetes to get and keep health insurance.

Human Genome: The genetic information of humans, as contained in the DNA of every cell. Each person has his or her own genome.

Hyperosmolar Hyperglycemic Syndrome: An emergency condition in which one’s blood glucose level is every high, but ketones are not present in the blood or urine. If left untreated, it can lead to coma or death.

Hypertension: A condition present when blood flows through the blood vessels with a force greater than normal, thus straining the heart, damaging blood vessels, and increasing the risk of heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease; also known as high blood pressure.

Hypoglycemia Unawareness: A state in which a person does not feel or recognize the symptoms of hypoglycemia.

Hypoglycemia: A condition characterized by abnormally low blood glucose levels, usually less than 70 mg/dl; signs include hunger, nervousness, shakiness, perspiration, dizziness, lightheadedness, sleepiness, and confusion. If left untreated, hypoglycemia may lead to unconsciousness. Sometimes this is called an insulin reaction.

Insulin Pen: A device for injecting insulin; it resembles a fountain pen and holds cartridges of insulin; a dial is often used to set the insulin dose; some pens are disposable and some pens have replaceable cartridges.

Insulin Pump: An insulin-delivering device about the size of a deck of cards that can be worn on a belt, kept in a pocket, or worn on your skin. It carries a reservoir of insulin connected to narrow, flexible plastic tubing (cannula) that is inserted just under the skin. Users set the pump to give a basal amount of insulin continuously throughout the day. Pumps also release bolus insulin to cover meals and at times when blood glucose levels are high, based on programming done by users.

Insulin: A hormone that helps the body use glucose for energy. It is produced in the beta cells of the pancreas.

Islet Cell: Any of the many types of cells located in the pancreas that make hormones to help the body break down food for energy. Examples include alpha cells that make glucagon and beta cells that make insulin.

Lipoatrophy: In diabetes, fatty tissue under the skin disappears, causing dents in the skin at the injection site.

Lipohypertrophy: An overgrowth of cells, usually fat cells, that makes the skin look lumpy; can look similar to scar tissue.

Logbook: A book in which readings are kept; for people with diabetes, it can contain blood glucose levels, blood pressure, eating data, and physical activity data.

Macrosomia: Abnormally large; in diabetes, it refers to abnormally large babies born to women with diabetes.

Nephropathy: Kidney disease; high blood glucose and high blood pressure can damage the kidney; when the kidneys are damaged, they can no longer remove waste and extra fluids from the bloodstream, and protein leaks into the urine.

Neuropathy: Disease of the nervous system; a complication of diabetes; the three major forms in people with diabetes are peripheral neuropathy, autonomic neuropathy, and focal neuropathy; most common form is peripheral neuropathy, which primarily affects the legs and feet.

Ophthalmologist: A medical doctor who diagnoses and treats eye diseases and eye disorders; can also prescribe glasses and contact lenses.

Optometrist: A primary eye care provider who prescribes glasses and contact lenses; can diagnose and treat certain eye conditions and diseases.

Osteoporosis: A condition characterized by decreased bone mass and density, causing the bones to become fragile and increasingly susceptible to fractures; it can arise in men (especially elderly men) and women but is highly prevalent in women who have passed menopause.

Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD): A disease that occurs when blood vessels in the legs are narrowed or blocked by fatty deposits, reducing blood flow to the feet and legs; this condition puts people at increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome: A hormonal disorder that affects young women of reproductive age and can cause infertility in some patients; many patients with this disorder also have insulin resistance.

Registered Dietitian (RD): A health care professional who advises people about meal planning, nutrition, and weight control. A dietitian who is also a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) has additional training in diabetes management and can assist you with your overall diabetes care.

Rehabilitation Act of 1973: A federal law that protects people with disabilities who work for the executive branch of the federal government or for companies or contractors that receive federal funding from discrimination.

Retinopathy: Damage to the small blood vessels in the eye that can lead to vision problems; different forms include background retinopathy and proliferative retinopathy.

Sleep Apnea: A disorder in which you briefly stop breathing or breathe very shallow, usually for 10–20 seconds.

State Continuation Coverage: A state plan allowing you to keep your health coverage by transitioning your employer group coverage to an individual health coverage policy.

Stent: A metal or plastic ring inserted into a vessel to keep the previously clogged vessel open.

Stroke: A serious condition caused by damage to blood vessels in the brain, which stops the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain, possibly causing cells to die; may cause loss of ability to speak or move parts of the body; risk factors include diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol.

Syringe: A device used to inject medications or other liquids into body tissues. The syringe for insulin has a hollow plastic tube with a plunger inside and a needle on the end.

Ulcer: A deep, open sore or break in the skin.

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