This Diabetes Dictionary is adapted from the original Diabetes Dictionary of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease (NIDDK)

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Also known as hemoglobin A1C (Hgb A1C). This is a test that measures a person's average blood glucose level over the past 2 to 3 months. The test shows the amount of glucose that sticks to the red blood cell, which is proportional to the amount of glucose in the blood.


Is a skin condition that causes darkened skin patches; common in people with insulin resistance. This skin condition is also seen in people who have pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes.

Adult-onset diabetes  

The former term for type 2 diabetes. Note, this term is no longer used.


Is a condition in which the urine has more than normal amounts of a protein called albumin. Albuminuria may be a sign of kidney disease.


This is the surgical procedure use to remove a limb or part of a limb.


These are proteins made by the body to protect itself from bacteria and viruses.


This is the hardening, clogging and narrowing of the arteries, which can lead to heart attack, stroke, eye and kidney problems.

Autoimmune disease   

This is a disorder where the body's own immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys its own tissues.

Autonomic Neuropathy  

A type of neuropathy that affects the lungs, heart, stomach, intestines, bladder, or genitals.

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Beta cells  

These cells produce insulin. Beta cells are located in the islets of the pancreas.

Blood glucose  

Also known as blood sugar, this is the sugar found in the blood and the body's main source of energy.

Blood glucose meter  

This is a small, hand held machine that can check your blood glucose levels. After pricking the skin with a lancet, one places a drop of blood on a test strip in the machine. The meter displays the blood glucose level as a number on the meter's digital display.

Blood pressure  

A measure of the force of blood exerted on the inside walls of blood vessels. Blood pressure is expressed as a ratio (example: 120/80, read as "120 over 80"). The first number is the systolic pressure, or the pressure when the heart pushes blood out into the arteries. The second number is the diastolic pressure, or the pressure when the heart rests.

Body mass index (BMI)  

A measure of body fat based on a formula that calculates the ratio of height and weight. It is an indicator of appropriate weight for height.

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A substance formed in the beta cells of the pancreas. They are released into the bloodstream in equal amounts to insulin. A test of C-peptide levels shows how much insulin the body is making.


A unit of measure of energy provided by food.


These are smallest blood vessels in the body. They carry oxygen and glucose to the cells and waste products like carbon dioxide back into the bloodstream where it can then be expelled.


One of the three main nutrients in food. Foods that provide carbohydrate are grain products, starches, vegetables, fruits, dairy products, and sugars. Carbohydrate breaks down into sugar (glucose) during digestion and raises blood sugar levels.


A grey-white film that clouds the lens of the eye, blurring one's vision. It can lead to blindness if not treated.

Certified diabetes educator  

A health care professional (usually a nurse, dietitian or pharmacist) with expertise in diabetes education who has met eligibility requirements and successfully completed a certification exam.


A type of fat produced by the liver and found in the blood; it is also found in animal based foods. Cholesterol is needed to make hormones and build cell membranes and other needed tissues.

Congestive heart failure  

The loss of the heart's pumping power, which causes fluids to collect in the body, especially in the feet and lungs.


A waste product from protein breakdown. Creatinine is removed from the body by the kidneys; as kidney disease progresses, the level of creatinine in the blood increases.

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A method of removing waste products from the blood artificially. When the kidneys fail, the blood must be cleaned artificially with special equipment.

Dilated eye exam  

A test done by an eye care specialist in which the pupil (the black center) of the eye is temporarily enlarged with eyedrops to allow the specialist to see the inside of the eye more easily.

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Swelling caused by excess fluid collecting in the tissues.


A medical doctor who specializes in the treatment of people who have endocrine gland problems such as diabetes.

Erectile dysfunction  

Also called impotence. It is the inability to get or maintain an erection for sexual activity.

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Fasting blood glucose test  

A blood test of a person's blood glucose level after the person has not eaten for 8 to 12 hours (usually overnight).


One of the three main nutrients in food. Foods that contain fat are butter/margarine, salad dressing, oil, nuts, meats, poultry, fish, and some dairy products


A type of sugar that occurs naturally in fruits and honey.

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Is the death of body tissue, most often caused by a lack of blood flow and infection. It often leads to amputation.


Causes incomplete or delayed digestion in the stomach, resulting in nausea, vomiting, or bloating, making blood glucose control difficult.

Gestational Diabetes  

A type of diabetes mellitus that develops only during pregnancy and usually disappears upon delivery of the baby.


Occurs when there is an increase in fluid pressure inside the eye. It can lead to loss of vision.


A hormone produced in the pancreas that stimulates the liver to produce large amounts of glucose. An injectable form of glucagon may be used to treat severe hypoglycemia.


Is the simplest form of sugar. It is produced during the digestion of carbohydrate.

Glycemic Index  

A ranking system of carbohydrate-containing foods, based on the food's effect on blood glucose compared with a standard reference food.


The storage form of glucose found in the liver and muscles.

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HDL Cholesterol  

Known as “healthy or good cholesterol”. Higher levels can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.


A condition caused by higher than normal levels of blood glucose.


A condition in which the level of insulin in the blood is higher than normal. Caused by overproduction of insulin by the body.


Higher than normal cholesterol levels in the blood.


Also known as high blood pressure. It happends when blood flows through the blood vessels with a force greater than normal.


Occurs when one's blood glucose is lower than normal, usually less than 4.0 mmol/L (70 mg/dL).


It is low blood pressure or a sudden drop in blood pressure.

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Impaired Fasting Glucose  

A blood glucose test, taken after an 8- to 12-hour fast, shows a level of glucose higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. Persons with an impaired fasting glucose are said to have pre-diabetes.

Impaired Glucose Tolerance  

Occurs when blood glucose levels are higher than normal but are not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. This test can be done randomly, at any time of day. Persons with imparied glucose tolerance are also said to have pre-diabetes.


Also called erectile dysfunction. It is the inability to get or maintain an erection for sexual activity.


A hormone made by the beta cells in the pancreas, that helps the body use glucose for energy.

Insulin resistance  

It is the body's inability to respond to and use the insulin it produces. Insulin resistance may be linked to obesity, hypertension, and high levels of fat in the blood.

Islet cells  

These cells are located in the pancreas and make the hormones that help the body break down and use food

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A serious condition caused by high blood glucose levels and lack of insulin. It causes the breakdown of body fat for energy and an accumulation of ketones in the blood and urine. Signs of ketoacidosis are nausea and vomiting, stomach pain, fruity breath odor, and rapid breathing. If untreated, it can lead to coma and death


A chemical produced by the liver when the body cannot use glucose and must break down fat for energy. When ketones accumulate in the body over a long period of time, they can cause serious illness and coma.

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LDL Cholesterol  

Known as “lousy or bad" cholesterol. High levels can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Lipid profile  

A blood test that measures total cholesterol, triglycerides, HDL cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol.

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Condition where large amounts of protein called albumin is detectable in the urine.


The part of the retina that lets us see details.


A condition caused by damaged blood vessels that leak fluid causing swelling of the macula (the part of the retina that lets us see details), causing blurred vision.

Maturity-onset diabetes of the young (MODY)  

A form of type 2 diabetes that accounts for 1 to 5 percent of people with diabetes. Of the six forms identified, each is caused by a defect in a single gene.

Metabolic syndrome  

A term used for persons with insulin resistance, diabetes or pre-diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and obesity.


Condition where small amounts of the protein called albumin is detectable in the urine.

Microvascular disease  

A disease of the smallest blood vessels, such as those found in the eyes, nerves, and kidneys. The walls of the vessels become abnormally thick but weak. Then they bleed, leak protein, and slow the flow of blood to the cells.

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Any disease of the kidneys. When the kidneys are damaged, protein leaks out of the kidneys into the urine. Damaged kidneys can no longer remove waste and extra fluids from the bloodstream.


Disease of the nervous system. The most common form is peripheral neuropathy, which affects mainly the legs and feet.

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A medical doctor who diagnoses and treats all eye diseases and eye disorders.


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

Oral glucose tolerance test  

A test used to diagnose pre-diabetes and diabetes. It meaures the body's ability to metabolize carbohydrate. A blood sample is taken 1 - 2 hours after the patient drinks a high-glucose beverage.

Oral hypoglycemic agents  

Medications that are taken by mouth for the treatment of type 2 diabetes.

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Is the body's organ that makes insulin and enzymes for digestion. The pancreas is located behind the lower part of the stomach and is about the size of a hand.

Peripehral Neuropathy  

Nerve damage that affects the feet, legs, or hands.

Peripheral Vascular Disease  

Disease of the large blood vessels of the arms, legs, and feet. This occur when major blood vessels in these areas are blocked and do not receive enough blood.


A doctor who examines and treats people who have foot problems.

Polycystic ovary syndrome  

A common hormonal disorder among women of reproductive age that can cause infertility. The principal features are weight problems, irregular ovulation and increased levels of male hormones. The symptoms and severity of the syndrome vary greatly between women.


Excessive thirst.


Excessive hunger.


Excessive urination.


Means: after mealtime.


A condition in which blood glucose levels are higher than normal but are not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. People with pre-diabetes are at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes and for heart disease and stroke. Other names for pre-diabetes are impaired glucose tolerance and impaired fasting glucose.


Means: before mealtime.


One of the three main nutrients in food. Foods that provide protein include meat, poultry, fish, cheese, milk, dairy products, eggs, and dried beans.


Is the presence of protein in the urine. This could indicate that the kidneys are not working properly.

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The light-sensitive layer of tissue that lines the back of the eye.


This is damage to the retina of the eye caused by bleeding, fluid accumulation, and abnormal dilation of the blood vessels.

Rubeotic Glaucoma  

A painful condition where new blood vessels can grow around the iris of the eye causing visual impairment.

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A condition caused by damage to blood vessels in the brain.

Subcutaneous Fat  

Type of fat found underneath the skin. Excess subcutanous can cause "double chin" effect or will gather on the hips. This type of fat is not considered to be a major health risk.

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Total Cholesterol: HDL ratio  

A measure of your cardiovascular risk


A form of fat derived from sugar, alcohol and excess calories. Higher levels can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Type 1 diabetes  

Occurs when the body's immune system attacks the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas and destroys them. The pancreas then produces little or no insulin. Type 1 diabetes develops most often in young people but can appear in adults.

Type 2 diabetes  

Caused by either a lack of insulin or the body's inability to use insulin efficiently. Type 2 usually occurs later in life and affects 90% of people with diabetes.

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A deep open sore or break in the skin.

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Visceral Fat  

Also known as organ fat. It is located inside the peritoneal cavity, packed in between internal organs. Accumulation of visceral fat is associated with an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Vitreous Hemorrhage  

Caused by large amount of bleeding from newly formed blood vessels in the retina. This can cause temporary vision loss.

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