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Glossary of Diabetes Terms

Acesulfame-k: An artificial sweetener used in place of sugar; it contains no carbohydrates or sugar; therefore, it has no effect on blood sugar levels. This sweetener is often used in conjunction with other artificial sweeteners in processed low-calorie foods. It is also used as a tabletop sweetener under the brand names Sunette, Sweet One, and Swiss Sweet.

Acetone: A chemical formed in the blood when the body breaks down fat instead of sugar for energy; if acetone forms, it usually means the cells are starved. Commonly, the body's production of acetone is known as "ketosis." It occurs when there is an absolute or relative deficiency in insulin so sugars cannot get into cells for energy. The body then tries to use other energy sources like proteins from muscle and fat from fat cells. Acetone passes through the body into the urine.

Acidosis: Too much acid in the body, usually from the production of ketones like acetone, when cells are starved; for a person with diabetes, the most common type of acidosis is called "ketoacidosis."

Acute: Abrupt onset that is usually severe; happens for a limited period of time.

Adrenal glands: Two endocrine glands that sit on top of the kidneys and make and release stress hormones, such as epinephrine (adrenaline), which stimulates carbohydrate metabolism; norepinephrine, which raises heart rate and blood pressure; and corticosteroid hormones, which control how the body utilizes fat, protein, carbohydrates, and minerals, and helps reduce inflammation. They also produce sex hormones like testosterone and can produce DHEA and progesterone.

Adult-onset diabetes: A termfor type 2 diabetes that is no longer used, because this type of diabetes is now commonly seen in children; "non-insulin dependent diabetes" is also considered an incorrect phrase in describing type 2 diabetes, because patients with this type of diabetes may at some point require insulin.

Advantame: An FDA-approved sugar substitute similar to Aspartame; it can be used as both a tabletop sweetener and as an ingredient in cooking. Advantame can also be used in baked goods, soft drinks and other non-alcoholic beverages, chewing gum, candies, frostings, frozen desserts, gelatins and puddings, jams and jellies, processed fruits and fruit juices, toppings and syrups.

Adverse effect: Harmful effect.

Albuminuria: When kidneys become damaged, they start to leak protein in the urine. Albumin is a small, abundant protein in the blood that passes through the kidney filter into the urine easier than other proteins. Albuminuria occurs in about 30%-45% of people who have had type 1 diabetes for at least 10 years. In people newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, the kidneys may already show signs of small amounts of protein spillage, called "microalbuminuria." This may be from the result of diabetes or from other diseases seen in conjunction with diabetes, like high blood pressure. Protein in the urine increases the risk of developing end-stage kidney disease. It also means that the person is at a particularly high risk for the development of cardiovascular disease.

Alpha cell: A type of cell in an area of the pancreas called the islets of Langerhans; alpha cells make and release a hormone called "glucagon." Glucagon functions in direct opposition to insulin -- it increases the amount of glucose in the blood by releasing stored sugar from the liver.

Anomaly:Birth defects; deviation from the norm or average.

Antibodies: Proteins that the body produces to protect itself from foreign substances, such as bacteria or viruses.

Antidiabetic agent: A substance that helps people with diabetes control the level of sugar in their blood (see insulin, oral diabetes medication).

Antigens: Substances that cause an immune response in the body, identifying substances or markers on cells; the body produces antibodies to fight antigens, or harmful substances, and tries to eliminate them.

Artery: A blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to other parts of the body; arteries are thicker than veins and have stronger, more elastic walls. Arteries sometimes develop plaque within their walls in a process known as "atherosclerosis." These plaques can become fragile and rupture, leading to complications associated with diabetes, such as heart attacks and strokes.

Artificial pancreas: A glucose sensor attached to an insulin delivery device; both are connected together by what is known as a "closed loop system." In other words, it is a system that not only can determine the body glucose level, but also takes that information and releases the appropriate amounts of insulin for the particular sugar it just measured. The artificial pancreas can regulate the amount of insulin released, so low sugars would cause the device to decrease insulin delivery. Trials using an artificial pancreas are currently under way, and the hope is that this system will be commercially available within 5 years. Studies are also being conducted to develop a version of this system that can be implanted.

Aspartame: An artificial sweetener used in place of sugar, because it has few calories; sold as ''Equal" and "NutraSweet."

Asymptomatic: No symptoms; no clear sign that disease is present.

Atherosclerosis: A disease of the arteries caused by deposits of cholesterol in the walls of arteries; these plaques can build up and cause narrowing of the arteries or they can become fragile and break off, forming blood clots that cause heart attacks and stroke. The arteries that supply blood to the heart can become severely narrowed, decreasing the supply of oxygen-rich blood to the heart, especially during times of increased activity.

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