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What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that means your body does not make enough insulin. Or it means that your body is not able to use the insulin it makes. Your body needs the hormone insulin to change blood sugar (glucose) into energy. Without insulin, too much glucose collects in your blood. Diabetes may also be a result of other conditions. These include genetic syndromes, chemicals, drugs, pancreatitis, infections, and viruses. Diabetes can be one of three types: type 1, type 2, or gestational. All three are metabolic disorders that affect the way the body uses (metabolizes) food to make glucose. Glucose is the main source of fuel for the body.

Complications of diabetes include eye problems and blindness, heart disease, stroke, neurological problems, amputation, and impotence. Except for gestational diabetes, diabetes is a chronic, incurable disease that affects nearly every part of the body. It contributes to other serious diseases and can be life threatening. Diabetes needs management under the care of a doctor throughout a person's life. The serious complications of diabetes can be prevented or stopped from progressing with proper care.

Language of Diabetes

Cardiologist: a doctor who treats people who have heart problems

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

Diabetologist: a doctor who specializes in treating people with diabetes

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

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

Nephrologist: a doctor who treats people who have kidney problems

Neurologist: a doctor who specializes in problems of the nervous system, such as neuropathy

Nurse Practitioners (NP): are advanced practice registered nurses (APRN) who are educated and trained to provide health promotion and maintenance through the diagnosis and treatment of acute illness and chronic condition

Ophthalmologist: a medical doctor who diagnoses and treats all eye diseases and eye disorders; Ophthalmologists can also prescribe glasses and contact lenses

Physician Assistant (PA): a person academically and clinically prepared to practice medicine under the supervision of a licensed doctor of medicine or osteopathy

Primary Care Physician (PCP): a physician, such as a general practitioner or internist, chosen by an individual to serve as his or her health-care professional and capable of handling a variety of health-related problems, of keeping a medical history and medical records on the individual, and of referring the person to specialists as needed

Registered Nurse (RN): is a nurse who has graduated from a nursing program and met the requirements outlined by a country, state, province or similar licensing body in order to obtain a nursing license

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 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

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

Gastroparesis: is 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

Hyperglycemia: elevated blood glucose; Blood sugar > 180

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

Hypoglycemia: a low blood sugar, blood sugar below 70, that can cause sweating, shakiness, irritability, vision changes, hunger, headache. This can become a medical emergency if not treated appropriately

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

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

Nephropathy: disease of the kidneys; Hyperglycemia and hypertension can damage the kidneys' glomeruli. When the kidneys are damaged, protein leaks out of the kidneys into the urine. Damaged kidneys can no longer remove waste and extra fluids from the bloodstream

Neuropathy: Nerve damage from diabetes is called neuropathy. About half of all people with diabetes have some form of nerve damage. It is more common in those who have had the disease for a number of years and can lead to many kinds of problems

Retinopathy: Eye disease that is caused by damage to the small blood vessels in the retina. Loss of vision may result (Also known as diabetic retinopathy)

A1C: a test that measures a person's average blood glucose level over the past 2 to 3 months

Basic Metabolic Panel: a blood test that measures your sugar (glucose) level, electrolyte and fluid balance, and kidney function

Blood Pressure: the force of blood exerted on the inside walls of blood vessels

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

C-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

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 eye drops to allow the specialist to see the inside of the eye more easily

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

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

HDL Cholesterol: stands for high-density-lipoprotein cholesterol (kuh-LESS-tuh-rawl LIP-oh-PRO-teen) a fat found in the blood that takes extra cholesterol from the blood to the liver for removal; sometimes called “good” cholesterol

Islet Cell Autoantibodies (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

LDL Cholesterol: stands for low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (kuh-LESS-tuh-rawl LIP-oh-PRO-teen) a fat found in the blood that takes cholesterol around the body to where it is needed for cell repair and also deposits it on the inside of artery walls; sometimes called "bad" cholesterol

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

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

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

Proteinuria: the presence of protein in the urine, indicating that the kidneys are not working properly

Calorie: a unit representing the energy provided by food. Carbohydrate, protein, fat and alcohol provide calories in the diet

Cholesterol: a type of fat produced by the liver and found in the blood. Foods that provide cholesterol are processed meats, dairy products, and deep fried foods

Fat: 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

Carbohydrate: 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.

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

Protein: one of the three main nutrients in food; foods that provide protein include meat, poultry, fish, cheese, milk, dairy products, eggs, and dried beans

Starch: another name for carbohydrate, one of the three main nutrients in food

Sugar Alcohols: sweeteners that produce a smaller rise in blood glucose than other carbohydrates

Triglyceride: the storage form of fat in the body. High triglyceride levels may occur when diabetes is out of control