Increase your diabetes vocabulary

Learn these common diabetes terms to help increase your understanding of this chronic disease.

There are so many terms, labels, and abbreviations that individuals with diabetes hear about. The most common diabetic terms such as Hyperglycemia (or high blood sugar) and Hypoglycemia (or low blood sugar) most of us are familiar with. Other terms that we hear from our healthcare team or read about on our own, we might now be as familiar with. 

Here are just a few common terms from the American Diabetes Association that will help sharpen your diabetes vocabulary,

  • 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.
  • Adult-onset diabetes - Former term for Type 2 diabetes.
  • Beta cell - A cell that makes insulin. Beta cells are located in the islets of the pancreas.
  • Dawn phenomenon - The early-morning (4 a.m. to 8 a.m.) rise in blood glucose level.
  • Diabetic Dermopathy - A disease of the skin. (Sometimes known as shin spots these spots consists  of light brown, oval, or circular scaly patches of skin).
  • 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.
  • Lancet - A spring-loaded device used to prick the skin with a small needle to obtain a drop of blood for blood glucose monitoring.
  • Polydipsia - Excessive thirst; may be a sign of diabetes.
  • Polyphagia - Excessive hunger; may be a sign of diabetes.
  • Somogyi effect - When the blood glucose level swings high following hypoglycemia. The Somogyi effect may follow an untreated hypoglycemic episode during the night and is caused by the release of stress hormones.

Discuss your diabetes risk and self-management with your healthcare provider. More glossaries of terms can be found at American Diabetes Association.  For articles, publications and workshops surrounding chronic disease and diabetes self-management please visit Michigan State University Extension.

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