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Diabetes & Medical Glossary
Glossary of Diabetes Terms A-M 

Acanthosis Nigricans (AN):  A skin condition characterized by darkened skin patches; common in people whose body is not responding correctly to the insulin that they make in their pancreas (insulin resistance). This skin condition is also seen in people who have pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes.

ACE Inhibitor:  An oral medicine that lowers blood pressure; ACE stands for angiotensin (an-gee-oh-TEN-sin) converting enzyme. For people with diabetes, especially those who have protein (albumin) in the urine, it also helps slow down kidney damage.

Acesulfame:  A dietary sweetener with no calories and no nutritional value. Also known as acesulfame-K. (Brand name: Sunett.)

Adhesive Capsulitis:  A condition of the shoulder associated with diabetes that results in pain and loss of the ability to move the shoulder in all directions.

Adult-Onset Diabetes:  Former term for type 2 diabetes.

AGEs:  Stands for advanced glycosylation endproducts. AGEs are produced in the body when glucose links with protein. They play a role in damaging blood vessels, which can lead to diabetes complications.

Albumin - A protein normally found in the urine.  Excessive amounts can indicate nephropathy (kidney disease).

Albuminuria:  A condition in which the urine has more than normal amounts of a protein called albumin. Albuminuria may be a sign of nephropathy (kidney disease).

Alpha Cell:  A type of cell in the pancreas. Alpha cells make and release a hormone called glucagon. The body sends a signal to the alpha cells to make glucagon when blood glucose falls too low. Then glucagon reaches the liver where it tells it to release glucose into the blood for energy.

Amylin:  A hormone formed by beta cells in the pancreas. Amylin regulates the timing of glucose release into the bloodstream after eating by slowing the emptying of the stomach.

Amyotrophy:  A type of neuropathy resulting in pain, weakness, and/or wasting in the muscles.

Anemia:  A condition in which the number of red blood cells is less than normal, resulting in less oxygen being carried to the body's cells.

Angiopathy:  Any disease of the blood vessels (veins, arteries, capillaries) or lymphatic vessels.

Antibodies:  Proteins made by the body to protect itself from "foreign" substances such as bacteria or viruses. People get type 1 diabetes when their bodies make antibodies that destroy the body's own insulin-making beta cells.

A1C:  A test that measures a person's average blood glucose level over the past 2 to 3 months. Hemoglobin (HEE-mo-glo-bin) is the part of a red blood cell that carries oxygen to the cells and sometimes joins with the glucose in the bloodstream. Also called hemoglobin A1C or glycosylated (gly-KOH-sih-lay-ted) hemoglobin, 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.  Also called HbA1c.

ARB:  An oral medicine that lowers blood pressure; ARB stands for angiotensin (an-gee-oh-TEN-sin) receptor blocker.

Arteriosclerosis:  Hardening of the arteries.

Artery:  A large blood vessel that carries blood with oxygen from the heart to all parts of the body.

Aspart Insulin:  A rapid-acting insulin. On average, aspart insulin starts to lower blood glucose within 10 to 20 minutes after injection. It has its strongest effect 1 to 3 hours after injection but keeps working for 3 to 5 hours after injection.

Aspartame:  A dietary sweetener with almost no calories and no nutritional value. (Brand names: Equal, NutraSweet.)

Atherosclerosis:  Clogging, narrowing, and hardening of the body's large arteries and medium-sized blood vessels. Atherosclerosis can lead to stroke, heart attack, eye problems, and kidney problems.

Autoimmune:   Of, relating to, or caused by autoantibodies or lymphocytes that attack molecules, cells, or tissues of the organism producing them.  In type 1 diabetes the immune system mistakes insulin producing beta cells as foreign (bad) cells and attacks and destroys them.

Autonomic Neuropathy:  A type of neuropathy affecting the lungs, heart, stomach, intestines, bladder, or genitals.

Avandia:  Avandia is the brand name of an oral insulin sensitizing drug used in treating diabetes.  See rosiglitazone.

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Background Retinopathy:  A type of damage to the retina of the eye marked by bleeding, fluid accumulation, and abnormal dilation of the blood vessels. Background retinopathy is an early stage of diabetic retinopathy. Also called simple or nonproliferative (non-pro-LIF-er-uh-tiv) retinopathy.

Basal Rate:  A steady trickle of low levels of longer-acting insulin, such as that used in insulin pumps.

Beta Cell:  A cell that makes insulin. Beta cells are located in the islets of the pancreas and also called beta islet cells.

Blood Glucose:  The main sugar found in the blood and the body's main source of energy. Also called "blood sugar."

Blood Glucose Level:  The amount of glucose in a given amount of blood.  It is noted in milligrams in a deciliter, or mg/dL.

Blood Glucose Meter:  A small, portable machine used by people with diabetes to check their 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 (or monitor) soon displays the blood glucose level as a number on the meter's digital display.

Blood Glucose Monitoring:  Checking blood glucose level on a regular basis in order to manage diabetes. A blood glucose meter (or blood glucose test strips that change color when touched by a blood sample) is needed for frequent blood glucose monitoring.

Blood Sugar:  Another term used for  blood glucose.

Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN):  A waste product in the blood from the breakdown of protein. The kidneys filter blood to remove urea. As kidney function decreases, the BUN levels increase.

Blood Vessels: Tubes that carry blood to and from all parts of the body. The three main types of blood vessels are arteries, veins, and capillaries.

Body Mass Index (BMI):  A measure used to evaluate body weight relative to a person's height. BMI is used to find out if a person is underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese.

Bolus:  An extra amount of insulin taken to cover an expected rise in blood glucose, often related to a meal or snack.

Borderline Diabetes:  A former term for type 2 diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance.

Brittle Diabetes:  A term used when a person's blood glucose level moves often from low to high and from high to low.

BUN:   See blood urea nitrogen.

Bunion: A bulge on the first joint of the big toe, caused by the swelling of a fluid sac under the skin. This spot can become red, sore, and infected.

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Callus:  A small area of skin, usually on the foot, that has become thick and hard from rubbing or pressure.

Calorie:  A unit representing the energy provided by food. Carbohydrate, protein, fat, and alcohol provide calories in the diet. Carbohydrate and protein have 4 calories per gram, fat has 9 calories per gram, and alcohol has 7 calories per gram.

Canuala - A small device for delivering insulin via an insulin pump.  A canual consists of tubing (that connects to the insulin pump on one end, and a needle on the other) and a needle that is inserted into the body usually in the hips, buttocks, or stomach area.

Capillary:  The smallest of the body's blood vessels. Oxygen and glucose pass through capillary walls and enter the cells. Waste products such as carbon dioxide pass back from the cells into the blood through capillaries.

Capsaicin:  An ingredient in hot peppers that can be found in ointment form for use on the skin to relieve pain from diabetic neuropathy.

Carbohydrate (abbreviated cho):  One of the three main nutrients in food.  Foods that provide carbohydrate are starches, vegetables, fruits, dairy products, and sugars.

Carbohydrate Counting:  A method of meal planning for people with diabetes based on counting the number of grams of carbohydrate in food.

Cardiologist:  A doctor who treats people who have heart problems.

Cardiovascular Disease:  Disease of the heart and blood vessels (arteries, veins, and capillaries).

Cataract:  Clouding of the lens of the eye.

Cerebrovascular Disease:  Damage to blood vessels in the brain. Vessels can burst and bleed or become clogged with fatty deposits. When blood flow is interrupted, brain cells die or are damaged, resulting in a stroke.

Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE): A health care professional with expertise in diabetes education who has met eligibility requirements and successfully completed a certification exam.

Charcot's Foot:  A condition in which the joints and soft tissue in the foot are destroyed; it results from damage to the nerves.

Cholesterol:  A type of fat produced by the liver and found in the blood; it is also found in some foods. Cholesterol is used by the body to make hormones and build cell walls.

Chronic:  Describes something that is long-lasting.  Opposite of acute.

Coma:  A dangerous sleep-like state in which a person is not conscious. May be caused by hyperglycemia (high blood glucose) or hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) in people with diabetes, also called "diabetic coma."

Complications:  Harmful effects of diabetes such as damage to the eyes, heart, blood vessels, nervous system, teeth and gums, feet and skin, or kidneys. Studies show that keeping blood glucose, blood pressure, and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels close to normal can help prevent or delay these problems.

Congenital Defects:  Problems or conditions that are present at birth.

Congestive Heart Failure:  Loss of the heart's pumping power, which causes fluids to collect in the body, especially in the feet and lungs.

Conventional Therapy:  A term used in clinical trials where one group receives treatment for diabetes in which A1C and blood glucose levels are kept at levels based on current practice guidelines. However, the goal is not to keep blood glucose levels as close to normal as possible, as is done in intensive therapy. Conventional therapy includes use of medication, meal planning, and exercise, along with regular visits to health care providers.

Coronary Artery Disease: See coronary heart disease below.

Coronary Heart Disease:  Heart disease caused by narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to the heart. If the blood supply is cut off the result is a heart attack.

C-peptide (Connecting peptide):  A substance the pancreas releases into the bloodstream in equal amounts to insulin. A test of C-peptide levels shows how much insulin the body is making.

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

Cystic Fibrosis:  A disease where the body overproduces mucous which can clog ducts in the pancreas and cause secondary type 1 diabetes.

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Dawn Phenomenon:  The early-morning (4 a.m. to 8 a.m.) rise in blood glucose level.

DCCT:  See Diabetes Control and Complications Trial.

Dehydration:  The loss of too much body fluid through frequent urinating, sweating, diarrhea, or vomiting.

Dermopathy:  Disease of the skin.

Dextrose:  Also called glucose, is a simple sugar found in blood that serves as the body's main source of energy.

Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT):  A study by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, conducted from 1983 to 1993 in people with type 1 diabetes. The study showed that intensive therapy compared to conventional therapy significantly helped prevent or delay diabetes complications. Intensive therapy included multiple daily insulin injections or the use of an insulin pump with multiple blood glucose readings each day. Complications followed in the study included diabetic retinopathy, neuropathy, and nephropathy.

Diabetes Educator:  A health care professional who teaches people who have diabetes how to manage their diabetes. Some diabetes educators are certified diabetes educators (CDEs).  Diabetes educators work in hospitals, physician offices, managed care organizations, home health care, and other settings.

Diabetes Insipidus:  A condition characterized by frequent and heavy urination, excessive thirst, and an overall feeling of weakness. This condition may be caused by a defect in the pituitary gland or in the kidney. In diabetes insipidus, blood glucose levels are normal.

Diabetes Mellitus:  A condition characterized by hyperglycemia resulting from the body's inability to use blood glucose for energy. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas no longer makes insulin and therefore blood glucose cannot enter the cells to be used for energy. In type 2 diabetes, either the pancreas does not make enough insulin or the body is unable to use insulin correctly.

Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP):  A study by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases conducted from 1998 to 2001 in people at high risk for type 2 diabetes. All study participants had impaired glucose tolerance, also called pre-diabetes, and were overweight. The study showed that people who lost 5 to 7 percent of their body weight through a low-fat, low-calorie diet and moderate exercise (usually walking for 30 minutes 5 days a week) reduced their risk of getting type 2 diabetes by 58 percent. Participants who received treatment with the oral diabetes drug metformin reduced their risk of getting type 2 diabetes by 31 percent.

Diabetic Diarrhea:  Loose stools, fecal incontinence, or both that result from an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine and diabetic neuropathy in the intestines. This nerve damage can also result in constipation.

Diabetic Eye Disease: See diabetic retinopathy.

Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA): An emergency condition in which extremely high blood glucose levels, along with a severe lack of insulin, result in the breakdown of body fat for energy and an accumulation of ketones in the blood and urine. Signs of DKA are nausea and vomiting, stomach pain, fruity breath odor, and rapid breathing. Untreated DKA can lead to coma and death.

Diabetic Myelopathy:  Damage to the spinal cord found in some people with diabetes.

Diabetic Retinopathy:  Diabetic eye disease; damage to the small blood vessels in the retina.  Loss of vision may result.

Diabetogenic:  Causing diabetes. For example, some drugs cause blood glucose levels to rise, resulting in diabetes.

Diabetologist:  A doctor who specializes in treating people who have diabetes.

Dialysis: The process of cleaning wastes from the blood artificially. This job is normally done by the kidneys. If the kidneys fail, the blood must be cleaned artificially with special equipment. The two major forms of dialysis are hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis.   (1)  Hemodialysis:  The use of a machine to clean wastes from the blood after the kidneys have failed. The blood travels through tubes to a dialyzer, a machine that removes wastes and extra fluid. The cleaned blood then goes back into the body.   (2) Peritoneal Dialysis:  Cleaning the blood by using the lining of the abdomen as a filter. A cleansing solution called dialysate is infused from a bag into the abdomen. Fluids and wastes flow through the lining of the belly and remain "trapped" in the dialysate. The dialysate is then drained from the belly, removing the extra fluids and wastes from the body.

Dietitian:  A health care professional who advises people about meal planning, weight control, and diabetes management. A registered dietitian (RD) has more training.

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.

DKA:  See diabetic ketoacidosis.

Dupuytren's Contracture:  A condition associated with diabetes in which the fingers and the palm of the hand thicken and shorten, causing the fingers to curve inward.

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Edema:  Swelling caused by excess fluid in the body.

Electromyography (EMG):  A test used to detect nerve function. It measures the electrical activity generated by muscles.

EMG:  See electromyograph (above)

Endocrine Gland:  A group of specialized cells that release hormones into the blood. For example, the islets in the pancreas, which secrete insulin, are endocrine glands.

Endocrinologist:  A doctor who treats people who have endocrine gland problems such as diabetes.

End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD):  See  kidney failure.

Enzyme:  Protein made by the body that brings about a chemical reaction, for example, the enzymes produced by the gut to aid digestion.

Erectile Dysfunction:  See impotence.

Euglycemia:  A normal level of glucose in the blood.

Exchange Lists:  One of several approaches for diabetes meal planning. Foods are categorized into three groups based on their nutritional content. Lists provide the serving sizes for carbohydrates, meat and meat alternatives, and fats. These lists allow for substitution for different groups to keep the nutritional content fixed.

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Fasting Blood Glucose Test:  A check of a person's blood glucose level after the person has not eaten for 8 to 12 hours (usually overnight). This test is used to diagnose pre-diabetes and diabetes. It is also used to monitor people with diabetes.

Fat:  (1) One of the three main nutrients in food. Foods that provide fat are butter, margarine, salad dressing, oil, nuts, meat, poultry, fish, and some dairy products. (2) Excess calories are stored as body fat, providing the body with a reserve supply of energy and other functions.

50/50 insulin:  Premixed insulin that is 50 percent intermediate-acting (NPH) insulin and 50 percent short-acting (regular) insulin.

Fluorescein Angiography: A test to examine blood vessels in the eye; done by injecting dye into an arm vein and then taking photos as the dye goes through the eye's blood vessels.

Fructosamine Test:  Measures the number of blood glucose molecules (MAH-leh-kyools) linked to protein molecules in the blood. The test provides information on the average blood glucose level for the past 3 weeks.

Fructose:  A sugar that occurs naturally in fruits and honey. Fructose has 4 calories per gram.

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Gangrene:  The death of body tissue, most often caused by a lack of blood flow and infection. It can lead to amputation.

Gastroparesis:  A form of neuropathy that affects the stomach.  Digestion of food may be incomplete or delayed, resulting in nausea, vomiting, or bloating, making blood glucose control difficult.

Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM):   A type of diabetes mellitus that develops only during pregnancy and usually disappears upon delivery, but increases the risk that the mother will develop diabetes later. GDM is managed with meal planning, activity, and, in some cases, insulin.

Gingivitis:  A condition of the gums characterized by inflammation and bleeding.

Gland:  A group of cells that secrete substances. Endocrine glands secrete hormones.  Exocrine glands secrete salt, enzymes, and water.

Glargine Insulin:  Very-long-acting insulin. On average, glargine insulin starts to lower blood glucose levels within 1 hour after injection and keeps working evenly for 24 hours after injection.

Glaucoma:  An increase in fluid pressure inside the eye that may lead to loss of vision.

Glomerular Filtration Rate:  Measure of the kidney's ability to filter and remove waste products.

Glomerulus:  A tiny set of looping blood vessels in the kidney where the blood is filtered and waste products are removed.

Glucagon:   A hormone produced by the alpha cells in the pancreas. It raises blood glucose. An injectable form of glucagon, available by prescription, may be used to treat severe hypoglycemia.

Glucose:   One of the simplest forms of sugar.

Glucose Tablets:   Chewable tablets made of pure glucose used for treating hypoglycemia.

Glucose Tolerance Test:  See oral glucose tolerance test.

Glycemic Index: A ranking of carbohydrate-containing foods, based on the food's effect on blood glucose compared with a standard reference food.  The higher the glycemic index, the faster the rise in blood glucose levels (i.e., pure sugar is fast).  The lower the glycemic index, the slower the impact on blood glucose. 

Glycogen:  The form of glucose found in the liver and muscles.

Glycosuria:  The presence of glucose in the urine.

Glycosylated Hemoglobin:  See A1C.

Gram:  A unit of weight in the metric system. An ounce equals 28 grams. In some meal plans for people with diabetes, the suggested amounts of food are given in grams.

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Hashimoto's Thyroiditis:  An autoimmune disorder in which the autoimmune system attacks and destroys the thyroid.  A normal TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) test may not be sufficient to rule out Hashimoto's.  Have your doctor test for specific antibodies.  A person may test positive for Hashimoto's antibodies long before symptoms present.  People with diabetes, and women with PCOS should be tested for Hashimoto's.

HDL cholesterol (High-Density-Lipoprotein):  A fat found in the blood, takes extra cholesterol from the blood to the liver for removal. Also called "good" cholesterol.

Hemochromatosis:  A disease which causes the body to store excessive amounts of iron.  Hemochromatosis can cause onset of secondary type 1 diabetes.

Hemodialysis:  The use of a machine to clean wastes from the blood after the kidneys have failed. The blood travels through tubes to a dialyzer, a machine that removes wastes and extra fluid. The cleaned blood then goes back into the body.

Hemoglobin A1C Test:  See A1C.

Heredity:  The passing of a trait from parent to child.

High Blood Glucose:  See hyperglycemia.

High Blood Pressure:  See hypertension.

Hirsute(ism):  Hairy.  Woman with insulin resistance, diabetes, or polycystic ovarian syndrome may develop excessive body and facial hair (often in a male pattern).

Honeymoon Phase:  Temporary remission of hyperglycemia that occurs in some people newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, when some insulin secretion resumes for a short time, usually a few months, before stopping again.

Hormone:  A chemical produced in one part of the body and released into the blood to trigger or regulate particular functions of the body. For example, insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas that tells other cells when to use glucose for energy. Synthetic hormones, made for use as medicines, can be the same or different from those made in the body.

Human Leukocyte Antigens (HLA):  Proteins located on the surface of the cell that help the immune system identify the cell either as one belonging to the body or as one from outside the body. Some patterns of these proteins may mean increased risk of developing type 1 diabetes.

Hyperglycemia:  Excessive blood glucose. Fasting hyperglycemia is blood glucose above a desirable level after a person has fasted for at least 8 hours. Postprandial hyperglycemia is blood glucose above a desirable level 1 to 2 hours after a person has eaten.

Hyperinsulinemia:  A condition in which the level of insulin in the blood is higher than normal. Caused by overproduction of insulin by the body. Related to insulin resistance.

Hyperlipidemia:  Higher than normal fat and cholesterol levels in the blood.

Hyperosmolar hyperglycemic nonketotic syndrome (HHNS):  An emergency condition in which one's blood glucose level is very high and ketones are not present in the blood or urine. If HHNS is not treated, it can lead to coma or death.

Hypertension:  A condition present when blood flows through the blood vessels with a force greater than normal. Also called high blood pressure. Hypertension can strain the heart, damage blood vessels, and increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney problems, and death.

Hypoglycemia:  A condition that occurs when one's blood glucose is lower than normal, usually less than 70 mg/dL. Signs include hunger, nervousness, shakiness, perspiration, dizziness or light-headedness, sleepiness, and confusion. If left untreated, hypoglycemia may lead to unconsciousness. Hypoglycemia is treated by consuming a carbohydrate-rich food such as a glucose tablet or juice. It may also be treated with an injection of glucagon if the person is unconscious or unable to swallow.  Also called an insulin reaction or insulin shock.

Hypoglycemia Unawareness:  A state in which a person does not feel or recognize the symptoms of hypoglycemia. People who have frequent episodes of hypoglycemia may no longer experience the warning signs of it.

Hypotension:  Low blood pressure or a sudden drop in blood pressure. Hypotension may occur when a person rises quickly from a sitting or reclining position, causing dizziness or fainting.

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IDDM (Insulin-Dependent Diabetes Mellitus):  Former term for type 1 diabetes.

Idiopathic Diabetes:  A subtype of type 1 diabetes, treated the same as type 1 with insulin.  Idiopathic means "of unknown origin."

Immune System:  The body's system for protecting itself from viruses and bacteria or any "foreign" substances.

Immunosuppressant:  A drug that suppresses the natural immune responses. Immunosuppressants are given to transplant patients to prevent organ rejection or to patients with autoimmune diseases.

Impaired Fasting Glucose (IFG):  A condition in which 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. IFG, also called pre-diabetes, is a level of 110 mg/dL to 125 mg/dL. Most people with pre-diabetes are at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

Impaired glucose tolerance (IGT):   A condition in which blood glucose levels are higher than normal but are not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. IGT, also called pre-diabetes, is a level of 140 mg/dL to 199 mg/dL 2 hours after the start of an oral glucose tolerance test. Most people with pre-diabetes are at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Other names for IGT that are no longer used are "borderline," "subclinical," "chemical," or "latent" diabetes.

Implantable Insulin Pump: A small pump placed inside the body to deliver insulin in response to remote-control commands from the user.

Impotence:  The inability to get or maintain an erection for sexual activity. Also called erectile (ee-REK-tile) dysfunction (dis-FUNK-shun).

Incidence:  The number of new cases of a disease among a particular group of people over a certain period of time (how often a disease occurs).

Incontinence:  Loss of bladder or bowel control; the accidental loss of urine or feces.

Inhaled Insulin: A treatment for taking insulin using a portable device that allows a person to breathe in insulin.

Injection:  Inserting liquid medication or nutrients into the body with a syringe. A person with diabetes may use short needles or pinch the skin and inject at an angle to avoid an intramuscular injection of insulin.

Injection Site Rotation: Changing the places on the body where insulin is injected. Rotation prevents the formation of lipodystrophies.

Injection Sites: Places on the body where insulin is usually injected.

Insertion Site - Where a canula is placed on the body when using an insulin pump.

Insulin:  A hormone that helps the body use glucose for energy. The beta cells of the pancreas make insulin. When the body cannot make enough insulin, insulin is taken by injection or through use of an insulin pump.

Insulin Adjustment:  A change in the amount of insulin a person with diabetes takes based on factors such as meal planning, activity, and blood glucose levels.

Insulin-Dependent DMabetes mellitus (IDDM):  Former term for type 1 diabetes.

Insulinoma:  A tumor of the beta cells in the pancreas.  An insulinoma may cause the body to make extra insulin, leading to hypoglycemia.

Insulin Allergy:  A rare allergy to insulin, or an additive in the insulin.  A person with allergic reaction to insulin may experience hives, asthmatic reactions, swelling, and changes in heart rate after injections of insulin.  It is treated by desensitization (which usually requires hospitalization) or by using a purified insulin.

Insulin Analog:  A man-made (synthetic) form of insulin.  In analog insulin certain amino acids substitute for the ones found naturally on an insulin molecule.  Currently, three types of analog insulin are commerically available (see IOH Drug News for more information) on insulin lispro (Humalog), insulin aspart (Novalog/NovaRapid), and insulin glargine (Lantus).

Insulin Antagonist:  Anything that opposes the action of insulin (opposite of, or fights the action of insulin).  Since insulin lowers blood glucose, the opposite (or agonist) to insulin would be glucagon, a hormone that acts to raise blood sugar.

Insulin Binding:  Insulin binds (or attaches) to other cells in the body. When insulin binds to a cell that needs energy it acts as a key opening the cell so that it can take in sugars from the blood stream.  Sometimes insulin will bind to proteins designed to protect the body from antibodies (outside, or foreign substances).  Sometimes, injected insulin is seen as an antibody to the body and it binds with protein.  In this case, insulin does not work as well as when it binds directly to body cells.

Insulin Pen:  A device for injecting insulin that looks like a fountain pen and holds replaceable cartridges of insulin.  Also available in disposable form.

Insulin Pump:  An insulin-delivering device about the size of a deck of cards that can be worn on a belt or kept in a pocket. An insulin pump connects to narrow, flexible plastic tubing that ends with a needle inserted just under the skin.  Users set the pump to give a steady trickle or basal amount of insulin continuously throughout the day.  Pumps release bolus doses of insulin (several units at a time) at meals and at times when blood glucose is too high, based on programming done by the user.

Insulin Reaction:  When the level of glucose in the blood is too low (at or below 70 mg/dL). Also known as insulin shock or hypoglycemia.

Insulin Receptors:  Areas on the outer part of a cell that allow the cell to bind with insulin in the blood. When the cell and insulin bind, the cell can take glucose from the blood and use it for energy.

Insulin Resistance:  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.

Insulin Sensitizer:  When a person is insulin resistant medications may help increase sensitivity to insulin.  Most commonly prescribed (usually for type 2 or pre-diabetes) are:  Glucophage (metformin), Avandia and Actos (both from the "glitazone classification of drugs).  Reducing caffeine intake may also help increase insulin sensitivy, as does minimizing processed carbohydrates in the diet,  losing weight, and regular exercise.  Some studies indicate the supplement chromium may help increase insulin sensitivity but should only be taken under the advice of a physician.

Insulin Shock:  See hypoglycemia.  Or read our main sections on Insulin Shock and Hypoglycemia.

Intensive Therapy:  A treatment for diabetes in which blood glucose is kept as close to normal as possible through frequent injections or use of an insulin pump; meal planning; adjustment of medicines; and exercise based on blood glucose test results and frequent contact with a person's health care team.

Intermediate-Acting Insulin: A type of insulin that starts to lower blood glucose within 1 to 2 hours after injection and has its strongest effect 6 to 12 hours after injection, depending on the type used. See lente insulin and NPH insulin.

Intramuscular Injection:  Inserting liquid medication into a muscle with a syringe.  Glucagon may be given by subcutaneous or intramuscular injection for hypoglycemia.

Intravenious (IV):  Injecting liquid medication or nourishment into the body by needle or cathetor directly into a vein.

Islet Cell Antibodies (ICA): Proteins found in the blood of people newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. They are also found in people who may be developing type 1 diabetes.  The presence of ICA indicates that the body's immune system has been damaging beta cells in the pancreas.  Presence of antibodies for any disease (including Hashimotos, hemochromatosis, etc.) indicates that the body has begun an autoimmune response and is attacking healthy cells in the body.

Islet Cell Transplantation:  Moving the islets from a donor pancreas into a person whose pancreas has stopped producing insulin. Beta cells in the islets make the insulin that the body needs for using blood glucose.

Islet Cells:  Groups of cells located in the pancreas that make hormones that help the body break down and use food. For example, alpha cells make glucagon and beta cells make insulin. Also called Islets or Islands of Langerhans.

Islets of Langerhans: See islets.

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Jet Injector:  A device that uses high pressure instead of a needle to propel insulin through the skin and into the body.

Juvenile Diabetes:  Former term for insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM), or type 1 diabetes.

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Ketoacidosis:  See diabetic ketoacidosis.

Ketone:  A chemical produced when there is a shortage of insulin in the blood and the body breaks down body fat for energy. High levels of ketones can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis and coma. Sometimes referred to as ketone bodies.

Ketonuria: A condition occurring when ketones are present in the urine, a warning sign of diabetic ketoacidosis.

Ketosis:  A ketone buildup in the body that may lead to diabetic ketoacidosis. Signs of ketosis are nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain.

Kidney Disease:  See nephropathy.

Kidney Failure:  A chronic condition in which the body retains fluid and harmful wastes build up because the kidneys no longer work properly. A person with kidney failure needs dialysis or a kidney transplant.   Also called end-stage renal disease or ESRD.

Kidneys:  The two bean-shaped organs that filter wastes from the blood and form urine. The kidneys are located near the middle of the back. They send urine to the bladder.

Kussmaul Breathing:  The rapid, deep, and labored breathing of people who have diabetic ketoacidosis.

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Lancet:  A spring-loaded device used to prick the skin with a small needle to obtain a drop of blood for blood glucose monitoring.

Laser Surgery Treatment:  A type of therapy that uses a strong beam of light to treat a damaged area. The beam of light is called a laser. A laser is sometimes used to seal blood vessels in the eye of a person with diabetes. See photocoagulation.

Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults (LADA):  A condition in which type 1 diabetes develops in adults.

LDL cholesterol (Low-density Lipoprotein):  A fat found in the blood, takes cholesterol around the body to where it is needed for cell repair and also deposits it on the inside of artery walls. Also called "bad" cholesterol.

Lente Insulin (L Insulin):  An intermediate-acting insulin. On average, lente insulin starts to lower blood glucose levels within 1 to 2 hours after injection. It has its strongest effect 8 to 12 hours after injection but keeps working for 18 to 24 hours after injection. Also called L insulin.

Limited Joint Mobility: A condition in which the joints swell and the skin of the hand becomes thick, tight, and waxy, making the joints less able to move. It may affect the fingers and arms as well as other joints in the body.

Lipid:   A term for fat in the body. Lipids can be broken down by the body and used for energy.

Lipid Profile:  A blood test that measures total cholesterol, triglycerides, and HDL cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is then calculated from the results. A lipid profile is one measure of a person's risk of cardiovascular disease.

Lipoatrophy:  Loss of fat under the skin resulting in small dents. Lipoatrophy may be caused by repeated injections of insulin in the same spot.

Lipodystrophy:  Defect in the breaking down or building up of fat below the surface of the skin, resulting in lumps or small dents in the skin surface. (See lipohypertrophy or lipoatrophy.) Lipodystrophy may be caused by repeated injections of insulin in the same spot.

Lipohypertrophy:  (currently being updated).

Lispro Insulin:  A rapid-acting insulin. On average, lispro insulin starts to lower blood glucose within 5 minutes after injection. It has its strongest effect 30 minutes to 1 hour after injection but keeps working for 3 hours after injection.

Liver:  An organ in the body that changes food into energy, removes alcohol and poisons from the blood, and makes bile, a substance that breaks down fats and helps rid the body of wastes.

Long-Acting Insulin:  A type of insulin that starts to lower blood glucose within 4 to 6 hours after injection and has its strongest effect 10 to 18 hours after injection. See ultralente insulin.

Low Blood Sugar:  See hypoglycemia.

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Macrovascular Disease:  Disease of the large blood vessels, such as those found in the heart. Lipids and blood clots build up in the large blood vessels and can cause atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease.

Macula: The part of the retina in the eye used for reading and seeing fine detail.

Macular Edema: Swelling of the macula (part of the retina).

Maturity-Onset Diabetes of the Young (MODY):  MODY is an autosomal dominant inherited disease that runs in families, usually occurs (onset) prior to age 25 and may or may not require insulin.   It is different from type 1 and type 1 diabetes and may often be misdiagnosed.

Metabolic Syndrome:  The tendency of several conditions to occur together, including obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes or pre-diabetes, hypertension, and high lipids.

Metabolism:  The term for the way cells chemically change food so that it can be used to store or use energy and make the proteins, fats, and sugars needed by the body.

Mg/dL:   Milligrams per deciliter, a unit of measure that shows the concentration of a substance in a specific amount of fluid. In the United States, blood glucose test results are reported as mg/dL. Medical journals and other countries use millimoles per liter (mmol/L). To convert to mg/dL from mmol/L, multiply mmol/L by 18. Example: 10 mmol/L _ 18 = 180 mg/dL.

Microalbumin:  Small amounts of the protein called albumin in the urine detectable with a special lab test.

Microaneurysm:  A small swelling that forms on the side of tiny blood vessels. These small swellings may break and allow blood to leak into nearby tissue. People with diabetes may get microaneurysms in the retina of the eye.

Microvascular Disease:  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.

Mixed Dose:  A combination of two types of insulin in one injection. Usually a rapid- or short-acting insulin is combined with a longer acting insulin (such as NPH insulin) to provide both short-term and long-term control of blood glucose levels.

Mmol/L (Millimoles per liter) :  A unit of measure that shows the concentration of a substance in a specific amount of fluid. In most of the world, except for the United States, blood glucose test results are reported as mmol/L. In the United States, milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) is used. To convert to mmol/L from mg/dL, divide mg/dL by 18. Example: 180 mg/dL ÷ 18 = 10 mmol/L.

MODY:   See maturity-onset diabetes of the young.

Monofilament:     A short piece of nylon, like a hairbrush bristle, mounted on a wand. To check sensitivity of the nerves in the foot, the doctor touches the filament to the bottom of the foot.

Mononeuropathy: Neuropathy affecting a single nerve.

Myocardial Infarction (heart attack):   An interruption in the blood supply to the heart because of narrowed or blocked blood vessels.

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Page Updated 04/29/2006