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16 Important Terms to Know About Diabetes

Medically reviewed by Peggy Pletcher, MS, RD, LD, CDE on January 31, 2017Written by Mary Baucom on January 31, 2017

 

No matter how long you’ve been living with diabetes — or what type of diabetes you have —you’re likely to come across words, phrases, and even jargon that you’re unfamiliar with. That’s why we put together this easy-to-understand diabetes dictionary for you.

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Insulin

A naturally occurring hormone that reduces the amount of glucose, or sugar, in your blood. It does so by allowing cells to absorb glucose. If you have diabetes, either your body is unable to make any or enough insulin or your cells are using it inefficiently. Insulin is also a common pharmaceutical treatment for diabetes.

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CGM

Stands for continuous glucose monitoring. A wearable device that helps monitor or track blood glucose levels 24/7.

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A1C

A measure of how much glucose is attached to hemoglobin, a protein in your blood. An A1C blood test determines your average blood sugar levels over the past two to three months. Your doctor may order an A1C test to see if you have diabetes or if your current diabetes treatment is working.

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Basal rate

One of the two types of insulin therapy given through an insulin pump. A basal rate is the continuous delivery of insulin to cover between-meal blood glucose.

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Bolus dose

One of the two types of insulin therapy given through an insulin pump. A bolus dose is given at mealtimes to regulate blood sugar levels after eating.

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Blood glucose

Also known as blood sugar. This is the sugar that’s in your bloodstream to give your cells energy to live.

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Monitoring

Knowing and managing blood glucose levels. Monitoring can be done through several different devices, including CGM devices.

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Glucagon

A hormone made naturally in your pancreas. Its function is to prevent blood glucose levels from becoming too low. A glucagon shot is often used in cases of severe hypoglycemia.

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Dextrose

A type of simple sugar that is chemically identical to glucose, or blood sugar. It’s found in processed cakes and candies as well as corn syrup. It may be given to someone with diabetes who is experiencing low blood sugar levels. Other simple sugars include fructose and galactose.

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Fructose

A simple sugar. It’s found in fruits, and may also be added to processed sweets and other foods, often in the form of high fructose corn syrup. Added fructose may be detrimental to those with diabetes. Other simple sugars include glucose and galactose.

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Carbohydrate

A category of macronutrient in foods that impacts glucose levels and can trigger a blood sugar spike for someone with diabetes. There are three categories of carbohydrates: sugar, starch, and fiber. Keeping your blood glucose levels in range requires managing carbohydrate intake with exercise. Medications can help if needed.

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Insulin resistance

A condition in which the cells of your body aren’t able to use insulin correctly. Insulin can’t bind to your cells, and sugar stays in your blood instead of being absorbed into your cells. Someone who is insulin resistant is more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes.

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Pump

A wearable device that delivers insulin continuously in basal or bolus doses. A pump is attached to your body and delivers insulin through small tubes. It’s rotated among different sites on your body every few days. Pumps are designed to mimic your body’s natural insulin delivery.

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Hypoglycemia

Low levels of blood sugar. Primarily a concern for those on medications that increase insulin levels in their body. Hypoglycemia is a medical emergency and must be treated to avoid serious complications.

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Hyperglycemia

High levels of blood sugar. If left untreated, it can lead to severe complications including kidney disease, nerve damage, and cardiovascular disease.

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Diabetic hyperlipidemia

High levels of blood lipids, including triglycerides and cholesterol, in someone with diabetes.

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