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Glossary of Terms

Adult-onset diabetes: Another term for Type 2 diabetes.

Beta cells: Cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas no longer makes insulin because the body's immune system has attacked and destroyed the beta cells.

Blood sugar: Also called blood glucose, this is the body's main source of energy.

Blood sugar level: The amount of glucose, or sugar, in your blood. It is measured in milligrams in a deciliter, or mg/dL.

Carbohydrate: A major nutrient found in foods such as starches, vegetables, fruits, dairy products, and sugars. Carbohydrates raise blood sugar levels. A person with diabetes should aim for a diet that is 50% to 60% carbohydrates.

Complications: Harmful conditions that can be caused by type 2 diabetes, such as kidney failure, heart disease, stroke, nerve damage, and poor eyesight. Many people with type 2 diabetes start to develop these complications before their diabetes is diagnosed.

Dietitian: A trained professional who helps people with diabetes create a meal plan to maintain their blood sugar levels and lose weight.

Fasting plasma glucose test: A way for your doctor to check the sugar, or glucose, levels in your blood. This is done after you have not eaten for at least eight hours.

Gestational diabetes: Some women develop this type of diabetes during the late stages of pregnancy. Although this form of diabetes usually goes away after the baby is born, a woman who has had it is more likely to later develop type 2 diabetes. Gestational diabetes is caused by the hormones of pregnancy or a shortage of insulin.

Hemoglobin A1C test: A blood test that measures your average blood sugar for the previous three months. All people with diabetes should have this test at least once per year. For those with high readings, blood sugar is usually checked every three months until it is in the normal range.

Hyperglycemia: High blood sugar levels.

Hypoglycemia: Low blood sugar levels, sometimes caused when a person with diabetes uses too much insulin, exercises too much, or has not eaten enough food. Symptoms may include weakness, shaking, sweating, headache, nervousness, and hunger. The person with diabetes must eat sugary food right away, such as fruit juice, several teaspoons of sugar, a cup of skim milk, or regular soda.

Hypoglycemic agents: Medicines taken by people with type 2 diabetes that help balance blood sugar levels.

Insulin: A hormone that allows sugar to be used as fuel by your body's cells. Insulin is normally produced by cells in the pancreas. People with Type 1 diabetes - and some with Type 2 diabetes - must take regular doses of insulin by injection to replace what is not being produced by their bodies.

Insulin pump: An insulin-delivering device that is the closest substitute available for your body making and delivering its own insulin. The user wears the small pump all of the time, and the device releases doses of insulin as needed.

Insulin resistance: A major factor in Type 2 diabetes, which results from the body not being able to use insulin properly. In many cases of type 2 diabetes, the pancreas creates enough insulin, but because of insulin resistance, sugar remains in the blood instead of being used as fuel.

Ketoacidosis: A side effect of diabetes, caused by the body breaking down fat instead of sugar for energy. This is a serious condition that can lead to a coma and even death if untreated. A person with diabetes showing high blood sugar should check for ketoacidosis by doing a urine test.

Neuropathy: Injury to the nerves, common to many people with diabetes. This loss of sensation means that many people with diabetes do not feel small foot injuries, and risk frequent infections.

Pancreas: The organ in your body that makes insulin and enzymes for digestion. It is located behind the lower part of your stomach.

Retinopathy: Injury to the retina, or the back of the eye. Because diabetes can damage the small blood vessels and nerves of the body, people with diabetes should see their eye doctor every year to check for any signs of retinopathy. Diabetes is the leading cause of adult blindness in the United States.

Type 1 diabetes: A condition formerly called juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes. It is usually first diagnosed in children, teenagers, or young adults. In this form of diabetes, the pancreas no longer makes insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. This happens because the body's immune system has attacked and destroyed the pancreas' beta cells. Treatment for type 1 diabetes includes taking insulin injections or using an insulin pump, making wise food choices, exercising regularly, taking aspirin daily, and controlling blood pressure and cholesterol.

Type 2 diabetes: Formerly called adult-onset diabetes or noninsulin-dependent diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, making up 90 to 95 percent of all cases. In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas creates insulin, but the body can't use it effectively. This means that glucose (sugar) builds up in the blood instead of being used by the body as fuel. Being overweight can increase your chances of developing this kind of diabetes.

Urine testing: Because diabetes is the leading cause of permanent kidney failure in the United States, all people with diabetes should have a yearly microalbumin urine test to check for early signs of diabetic injury to the kidneys.


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