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Terminology Explained

  • A1C levels - Your A1C level measures the quantity of sugar attached to your red blood cells. Expressed as a percentage of your total red blood cells, A1C provides an estimate of your average blood sugar level over the past two to three months; higher blood sugar levels are associated with higher A1C levels. An A1C of 6.5% or higher indicates the presence of diabetes.  
  • Analog insulin - Analog insulins are similar in structure to insulin produced in the human body but with minor structural modifications to make them either rapid-acting or long-acting. Analog insulin is a newer and more expensive type of insulin that generally leads to less hypoglycemia and weight gain. 
  • Automated insulin delivery system (AID) - The development of automated insulin delivery has many names – artificial pancreas, hybrid closed loop, bionic pancreas – but all share the same goal: using continuous glucose monitors and smart algorithms to automatically adjust insulin delivery via pump to keep a person’s glucose levels in range.
  • Basal insulin - Basal insulin, also known as long-acting insulin, is designed to be injected once or twice daily to provide a constant level of insulin action throughout the day and to provide enough insulin throughout the night.
  • Blood glucose meter (BGM) - Blood glucose meters measure a person’s blood sugar level at the specific moment of checking. To use a meter, people insert a test strip, prick their finger with a lancing device to draw blood, and then put a small drop of their blood onto the test strip. The meter gives a blood glucose reading in mg/dl (US standard) or mmol/l (European standard). 
  • Blood sugar or blood glucose - Blood sugar, or blood glucose, comes from the food that we eat and serves as our body’s main source of energy. Your blood sugar level refers to the amount of glucose in your blood at a specific moment in time. 
  • Cardiovascular disease - Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is also called heart disease, and having diabetes is a risk factor for heart disease. High blood sugar levels can damage the blood vessels and nerves that support your heart. This process occurs slowly over time – the longer you have diabetes, the more likely you are to develop heart disease.
  • Chronic kidney disease (CKD) - Also known as chronic renal disease or nephropathy, chronic kidney disease (CKD) occurs when the kidneys cannot properly filter the fluids that pass through them. Diabetes is a primary cause of CKD. People often don’t experience symptoms of CKD until significant kidney damage has occurred, which is why regular kidney screening is so important for those with diabetes. 
  • Continuous glucose monitors (CGM) - Continuous glucose monitors measure the body’s glucose levels in real-time by sensing the glucose present in tissue fluid (also called interstitial fluid). While a blood glucose meter (BGM) provides a measurement of the blood glucose level at a specific moment in time (when you prick your finger), CGMs typically provide a new glucose level every five minutes, meaning 288 times per day.
  • Diabetes-related retinopathy (DR) - DR means “disease of the retina cause by diabetes.” This is caused by high blood sugar levels which lead to damage of the retina (the back of your eye, which captures the image you see, kind of like the sensor of a digital camera). If left untreated, DR can cause blindness.
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) - Ketoacidosis, or diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) in people with diabetes, occurs when a person does not have enough insulin to provide glucose to cells for energy. The body responds by breaking down its fat stores (into ketones) for energy, resulting in high levels of ketones in the blood. Ketones are acidic molecules, so an increased level of ketones can cause the blood to become more acidic – which prevents the body from functioning fully. DKA can be life threatening and must be treated immediately.
  • Gestational diabetes - Gestational diabetes can develop during pregnancy, if a woman’s body cannot produce enough insulin to keep blood sugar levels in a target range. Gestational diabetes is usually temporary, and blood sugar levels will stabilize after childbirth.
  • GLP-1 agonist - GLP-1 agonists (such as Trulicity, Victoza, and Lyxumia) are a glucose-lowering drug used by people with type 2 diabetes. GLP-1 agonists have also been shown to benefit the heart in people with diabetes.
  • Glucagon - Glucagon is a hormone (a natural chemical made by your body) that prompts the body to release stored sugar into your bloodstream. Glucagon is used to treat people with diabetes for severe hypoglycemia at home.
  • Human insulin - Human insulins are identical in structure to the insulin produced in the human body. Human insulin can either be short-acting or intermediate-acting. Human insulin was developed before and is cheaper than analog insulin. 
  • Hyperglycemia - Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) is defined as a glucose value above 180 mg/dL. Hyperglycemia is often a result of insufficient insulin, not enough physical activity, or too much food (particularly those high in carbohydrates). Over time, hyperglycemia can lead to major long-term health complications.
  • Hypoglycemia - Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) is defined as a glucose value below 70 mg/dL. Hypoglycemia is usually a result of diabetes treatment, often because there is too much insulin in the body. Common symptoms of hypoglycemia include hunger, sweating, and fatigue. Severe hypoglycemia can result in seizures and loss of consciousness. 
  • Insulin - Insulin is a critical hormone in the body that facilitates the uptake of glucose into the cells and lowers the blood sugar levels. People with type 1 diabetes and some people with type 2 diabetes need to take insulin because their bodies either cannot produce enough insulin (insulin deficiency) or cannot respond well to their own insulin (called insulin resistance).
  • Insulin pump - Insulin pumps are devices that deliver insulin in the body without the need for manual injections. They are able to administer rapid-acting insulin in both basal (slow) and bolus (mealtime) capacities, and often come with built-in bolus dose calculators. 
  • Metformin - Metformin (such as Glumetza, Fortamet, and Riomet) is typically the first-prescribed glucose-lowering drug for someone diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. 
  • Neuropathy - Neuropathy is nerve damage that causes a loss of sensation, numbness, and sometimes pain and sensitivity – it’s one of the most common complications of diabetes. While neuropathy can affect all parts of the nervous system, the most common form is diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN), which affects the arms, hands, legs, feet, and toes.
  • Prandial insulin - Prandial insulin, also known as rapid-acting or “mealtime” insulin, is taken with food and acts quickly in the body, helping to manage glucose levels following meals. 
  • Prediabetes - Prediabetes is a reversible condition in which the body has higher than normal blood sugars. If left unnoticed or untreated, blood sugars can continue to rise, resulting in type 2 diabetes. 
  • SGLT-2 Inhibitors - SGLT-2 inhibitors (such as Invokana, Farxiga, and Jardiance) are a class of glucose-lowering drugs that cause the kidneys to excrete excess glucose through the urine. They are currently only approved for people with type 2 diabetes. SGLT-2 inhibitors have also been shown to benefit the heart and kidneys in people with diabetes.
  • Sulfonylureas - Sulfonylureas (such as Glipizide, Gliclazide, and Glibenclamide) are used by people with type 2 diabetes to lower glucose levels.
  • Time in Range - Time in Range (TIR) is the percentage of time that a person spends with their blood glucose levels in a target range. The range will vary depending on the person, but general guidelines suggest a range of 70180 mg/dl for most people with diabetes. TIR can be measured using a continuous glucose monitor (CGM). 
  • Type 1 diabetes - Type 1 diabetes is a condition in which the body can no longer produce insulin. People who have family members with type 1 diabetes are more likely to develop it themselves. There are currently no known ways to prevent or cure type 1 diabetes.
  • Type 2 diabetes - Type 2 diabetes is a condition in which the body still makes insulin but has trouble responding to it, also known as insulin resistance. Type 2 diabetes is caused by a combination of factors including lifestyle (food, exercise, stress, sleep) and genetics. It is possible to reduce one’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes.