Glossary

Common terms used when describing diabetes and the related treatments. Let us know if the word you are looking for is missing.

Alpha cells The cells in the pancreas that produce glucagon.
Beta cells The cells in the pancreas that produce insulin.
Bolus The administration of a medication or drug in the blood.
Carbs Short for carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates One of the main three nutrients (the others are proteins and fats) that provide energy to the body. Carbohydrates are converted into glucose when digested.
CHO Sometimes used as an acronym for carbs. It comes from the three elements that make a molecule of carbohydrate: carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.
Diabetes A series of illnesses that result in high level of glucose in the blood, a condition that can be fatal if untreated. In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas stops producing insulin, which prevents tissues from extracting glucose from the blood stream to use as energy. In Type 2 diabetes, the pancreas produces insulin, but tissues resist it and do not fully absorb glucose.
Glucagon An hormone produced by the pancreas for the liver to break down glycogen in order to release glucose in the blood, thereby increasing the amount of glucose in the blood. “Emergency kits” to treat severe hypoglycemia consist of glucagon injections.
Glucose A sugar that circulates in the blood that is used by the body as a primary source of energy.
HbA1c A measurement of the average glucose concentration in the blood over the past four weeks to three months.
Hormone A chemical product produced by some cells to help other cells to work. For instance, the pancreas cells make insulin for various tissues in the body to absorb glucose in the blood for energy
Hyperglycemia Designates the condition when blood glucose raises above 250 mg/dL (13.5 mmol/l).
Hypoglycemia Designates the condition when blood glucose falls below 70 mg/dL (4 mmol/l). Low levels of glucose prevent organs from getting the energy they need to operate normally.
Immune system A system consisting of cells, proteins, tissues and organs that protect the body against foreign germs. The immune system can be subject to defects, where it starts attacking natural cells of the body.
Insulin An hormone produced by the pancreas that enables the brain, muscles, liver and other tissues to absorb glucose for energy, thereby reducing the amount of glucose in the blood.
Ketoacidosis A very high level of ketones that makes the blood too acid and that is life-threatening.
Ketones A chemical substance produced by the liver when fat cells release fatty acids for energy. High levels of ketones can result in ketosis or ketoacidosis.
Ketosis A high level of ketones that happens when glucose levels are low in the blood. Some diets such as low-carb diets result in ketosis. It’s currently debated whether ketosis is a safe or unsafe state.
Pancreas A gland organ behind the stomach that regulates the amount of glucose in the blood and produces digestive enzymes. Type 1 diabetes results in some cells in the pancreas not producing insulin, but the other pancreatic functions continue to work normally.
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