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Glossary of Diabetes Terms

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Insulin resistance syndrome or Metabolic syndrome: This syndrome is defined by a cluster of medical conditions that raise the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease. A diagnosis is important, because you can make health improvements that lessen the risk.

Insulin resistance syndrome or metabolic syndrome is diagnosed when a person has 3 or more of the following:

  • Blood pressure equal to or higher than 130/85 mmHg
  • Fasting blood sugar (glucose) equal to or higher than 100 mg/dL
  • Large waist circumference (a waistline of 40 inches or more for men; 35 inches or more for a woman)
  • Low HDL cholesterol (under 40mg/dL for men; under 50 mg/dL for women)
  • Triglycerides equal to or higher than 150 mg/dL

Insulin shock: A severe condition that occurs when the level of blood sugar drops quickly.

Intermediate-Acting Insulin: Covers insulin needs for about half the day or overnight; this type of insulin is often combined with rapid- or short-acting insulin. Includes NPH and Lente.

Intermittent claudication: Pain in the muscles of the legs that occurs off and on, usually while walking or exercising. The pain results from atherosclerosis of the blood vessels feeding the muscles of the lower extremities. Claudication usually increases with age and is most common in people in their sixth or seventh decade of life. Risk factors for developing narrowing of the arteries that can cause claudication include smoking cigarettes, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Drugs are available to treat this condition.

Jet injector: A device that uses high pressure to push insulin through the skin and into the tissue.

Juvenile-onset diabetes: Former term used for type 1 diabetes.

Ketoacidosis: See diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).

Ketone bodies: Often simply called ketones, one of the products of fat burning in the body. When there is not enough insulin, your body is unable to use sugar (glucose) for energy and your body breaks down its own fat and protein. When fat is used, ketone bodies, an acid, appear in your urine and blood. A large amount of ketones in your system can lead to a serious condition in which acids build up in the body called ketoacidosis. Ketones can be detected and monitored in your urine at home using products such as Ketostix, Chemstrips, and Acetest. When your blood sugar is consistently greater than 250 mg/dl, if you are ill or if you are pregnant and have diabetes, ketones should be checked regularly.

Kidney disease (nephropathy): In a person with diabetes, nephropathy is any one of several conditions caused by changes in the very small blood vessels in the kidneys. These changes cause scarring of the kidneys, which can eventually lead to kidney failure. People who have had diabetes for a long time may develop nephropathy. An early sign of nephropathy is when proteins can be detected in the urine.

Kidney threshold: See renal threshold.

Lancet: A fine, sharp pointed needle for pricking the skin. Used in blood sugar monitoring.

Laser treatment: The use of a strong beam of light (laser) to heal a damaged area. A person with diabetes might receive laser treatments to heal blood vessels in the eye.

Late-onset diabetes: Former term used for type 2 diabetes.

Lipid: Another term for a fat or fat-like substance in the blood. The body stores fat as energy for future use just like a car that has a reserve fuel tank. When the body needs energy, it can break down lipids into fatty acids and burn them like glucose. Excess amounts of fats in the diet can cause fat build up in the walls of the arteries -- called "atherosclerosis." Excess amounts of calories from fats or other nutrients can lead to an increase in weight gain.

Low blood sugar, low blood glucose: See hypoglycemia.

Metabolism: All of the physical and chemical processes in the body that occur when food is broken down, energy is created and wastes are produced.

Mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter): Measurement that indicates the amount of a particular substance such as glucose in a specific amount of blood.

Mixed dose: A prescribed dose of insulin in which two types of insulin are combined and injected at once. A mixed dose commonly combines a fast-acting and longer-acting insulin. A mixed dose can either come in a pre-mixed syringe or mixed at the time of injection. A mixed dose may be prescribed to provide better blood sugar control.

Nephropathy: Disease of the kidneys caused by damage to the small blood vessels or to the units in the kidneys that clean the blood. People who have had diabetes for a long time may develop nephropathy.

Neurologist: A doctor who treats people who have problems of the nervous system (brain, spinal cord, and nerves).

Neuropathy: Nerve damage. People who have had diabetes that is not well controlled may develop nerve damage.

Non-insulin dependent diabetes: Former term for type 2 diabetes.

Nutritionist: See dietitian.

Obesity: A term uses to describe excess body fat. It is defined in terms of a person's weight and height, or his/her body mass index (BMI). A BMI over 30 is classified as being obese. Obesity makes your body less sensitive to insulin's action. Extra body fat is thought to be a risk factor for diabetes.

Ophthalmologist: A doctor who treats people with eye diseases.

Optometrist: A person professionally trained to test the eyes and to detect and treat eye problems, as well as some diseases, by prescribing and adapting corrective lenses.

Oral diabetes medications: Medications that people take to lower the level of sugar in the blood. Oral diabetes medications are prescribed for people whose pancreas still produces some insulin. These medications are not used in diabetes during pregnancy.

Pancreas: An organ behind the lower part of the stomach that is about the size of a hand. It makes insulin so the body can use sugar for energy.

Peak action: The time when the effect of something is as strong as it can be, such as when insulin is having the most effect on blood sugar.

Periodontal disease: Damage to the gums and tissues around the teeth. People who have diabetes are more likely to have periodontal disease than people who do not have diabetes.

Peripheral neuropathy: A type of nerve damage most commonly affecting the feet and legs.

Peripheral vascular disease (PVD): An abnormal condition that affects the blood vessels outside the heart. Often occurs as a result of decreased blood flow and narrowing of the arteries from atherosclerosis, to the hands and feet. People who have had diabetes for a long time may develop PVD.

Podiatrist: A health professional who diagnoses and treats foot problems.

Polydipsia: Excessive thirst that lasts for long periods of time; may be a sign of diabetes.

Polyphagia: Excessive hunger and eating; may be a sign of diabetes. When insulin levels are decreased or there is insulin resistance, the cells of the body do not get enough sugar, and hunger develops. People with polyphagia often lose weight, even though they are eating more than normal, because the excess calories are lost in the urine as sugar (glucose).

Polyunsaturated fat: A type of fat that can be substituted for saturated fats in the diet and can reduce LDL ''bad'' cholesterol. It also can have a small effect in lowering HDL (''good'') HDL cholesterol, but to a lesser degree than do saturated fats. 

Polyuria: Increased need to urinate often; a common sign of diabetes.

Protein: One of three main classes of food. Proteins are made of amino acids, which are called the "building blocks of the cells." Cells need protein to grow and to mend themselves. Protein is found in many foods, like meat, fish, poultry, eggs, legumes, and dairy products.

WebMD Medical Reference

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If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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