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To better help you understand the terms and medical lingo, we’ve provided you with a diabetes dictionary.

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ASPARTAME POTASSIUM: An artificial sweetener.
ABDOMINAL OBESITY: Elevated levels of fat stored around the abdomen and waist. People with abdominal obesity are at higher risk for diseases such as diabetes and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), which can lead to heart attack and stroke.
AEROBIC EXERCISE: Any physical activity that increases the heart rate. It strengthens the heart and lungs, increases metabolism, tones muscles, reduces blood pressure and can help with weight loss. In people with type 2 diabetes it can also help with blood glucose control.
ALBUMIN TO CREATININE RATIO (ACR): A urine test that measures kidney function. People with diabetes are at increased risk of kidney disease (diabetic nephropathy), and this screening test can identify the very early stages of kidney disease.
ALBUMIN: A type of protein produced in the liver. An increased level of albumin in the urine of people with diabetes is an early sign of kidney damage. See MICROALBUMINURIA.
ALPHA CELLS: Cells found in the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas, that are responsible for producing glucagon, a hormone that causes blood glucose to rise.
AMPUTATION: The surgical removal of a limb or part of a limb or a body part (such as a breast). People with diabetes are at increased risk of amputation as they often have nerve damage in the legs and feet (diabetic neuropathy) and do not notice cuts or blisters. The minor wounds can become infected and, if they are not treated, can lead to gangrene, which may require the affected area to be amputated.
ANGINA: A severe, tightening pain in the chest, usually because of a lack of blood supply to the heart due to narrowing of the arteries.
ANTIBODY: A protein produced by the body to fight off foreign substances such as bacteria, allergens, viruses and transplanted tissues or organs. See AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE.
ANTIOXIDANT: A substance that reduces damage to cells. Examples of antioxidants include vitamins A, C and E. A diet rich in antioxidants, such as those from vegetable and fruit, can help reduce the risk of conditions such as heart disease and some forms of eye disease.
ANTI-PLATELET THERAPY: Treatment with a drug that decreases the formation of platelets (the component of blood that forms clots to slow bleeding) to help prevent or reduce the effects of heart disease and/or stroke.
ATHEROSCLEROSIS: Disease of the arteries in which fatty deposits develop on the inner walls of the arteries. This causes narrowing of the arteries, which restricts and can eventually block blood flow. This can lead to heart attacks, angina and strokes. People with diabetes are at high risk of atherosclerosis. See CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE.
ADULT-ONSET DIABETES: The former term for type 2 diabetes. Although type 2 diabetes usually occurs in people over 40, this term is no longer used because the disease is being increasingly diagnosed in younger people, even adolescents and children.
AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE: A disorder in which a person’s own antibodies destroy the body’s tissues. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, in which the body’s own cells destroy the beta cells in the pancreas.
AUTOIMMUNE THYROID DISEASE: An autoimmune disease that occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its own thyroid cells, reducing or even destroying thyroid function. As thyroid disorders are more common in people with diabetes than people without diabetes, people with diabetes should have their thyroid function tested regularly. See HYPOTHYROIDISM.
AUTONOMIC NEUROPATHY: A disease of the nervous system affecting mostly the internal organs, such as the bladder muscles, the cardiovascular system, the digestive system and the genitals. Seen most often in people with long-standing type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes. See GASTROPARESIS, ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION.
ACANTHOSIS NIGRICANS: A skin disorder in which dark patches of skin and ‘velvety’ thickening of the skin appear, especially in the neck, groin and under the arms. It may be a sign of insulin resistance and is common in children with type 2 diabetes.
BETA CELLS: Insulin-producing cells found in the Islets of Langerhans in the pancreas.
BLOOD GLUCOSE METER/MONITOR: A hand-held machine designed to check blood glucose readings. A drop of blood (usually from the fingertip) is placed on a small test strip that is inserted into the meter. The meter displays the amount of glucose in the blood. Blood glucose meters allow people with diabetes to play an active role in monitoring and managing their own blood glucose readings.
BLOOD GLUCOSE: The concentration of glucose in the blood. In Canada, blood glucose is measured in mmol of glucose per litre of blood (mmol/L). The normal range before meals is 4.0 - 6.0 mmol/L, while the normal range two hours after a meal is 5.0 - 8.0 mmol/L.
BLOOD PRESSURE: The pressure of blood flow on artery walls. Blood pressure is expressed using two numbers: the first number is systolic pressure, the pressure caused by the heart pushing blood out into the arteries. The second number is diastolic pressure, BODY MASS INDEX (BMI): The unit of measurement to describe weight in relation to height for people 20 to 65 years of age. It is calculated by taking a person’s weight (in kilograms) and dividing by their height squared (kg/m2). It is used to classify people as underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese. Calculate your BMI
BUNION: A bulge on the first joint of the big toe caused by swelling under the skin as a result of long-term irritation and pressure from poorly fitting shoes. People with diabetes and bunions should receive advice and treatment from a qualified foot care expert. See PODIATRIST, CHIROPODIST.
BARIATRIC SURGERY: Surgery to manage obesity. Usually reserved for people who are extremely obese.
CREATININE CLEARANCE TEST: A urine test that measures how well the kidneys are working. People with diabetes should have their creatinine clearance measured or estimated every six to 12 months.
COMA: A state of unconsciousness. In diabetes, it may result from a variety of causes including severe hypoglycemia or diabetic ketoacidosis.
CREATININE: A compound present in the muscles and blood that is removed from the body in the urine.
CONTINUOUS GLUCOSE METER: A blood glucose meter with a small sensor that is inserted under the skin. This meter automatically checks blood glucose readings every few minutes.
CO-MORBIDITY: The presence of one or more disorders/diseases in addition to a primary disorder/disease. For example, people with diabetes (the primary disease) often also have high blood pressure (a co-morbidity).
CYCLAMATE: An artificial sweetener.
CHRONIC: Anything with usually gradual onset and of very long duration with slow changes. For example, diabetes is a chronic disease as it develops slowly over many years and is a lifelong disease.
CHOLESTEROL: A type of fat that occurs naturally in human bodies and is also found in animal fats. Abnormal levels of cholesterol are risk factors for cardiovascular disease. See HIGH-DENSITY LIPOPROTEIN CHOLESTEROL, LOW-DENSITY LIPOPROTEIN, TOTAL CHOLESTEROL, TOTAL CHOLESTEROL TO HDL-C RATIO, TRIGLYCERIDE.
CHIROPODIST: A health professional who studies, diagnoses and treats disorders of the feet. See PODIATRIST.
CERTIFIED DIABETES EDUCATOR (CDE): A health professional certified to teach people with diabetes how to manage their disease. See DIABETES EDUCATOR.
CEREBRAL EDEMA: A build-up of fluids in the brain. A serious and often fatal complication of diabetic ketoacidosis.
CELIAC DISEASE: An autoimmune disease characterized by sensitivity to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. People with celiac disease must eliminate all forms of gluten from their diet. Celiac disease and type 1 diabetes may occur together.
CATARACT: A clouding of the lens of the eye, resulting in blurred vision. Cataracts tend to occur in people over 50 years of age, but can occur at a younger age and advance more quickly in people with diabetes. If left untreated, cataracts can cause blindness.
CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME: A condition in which the median nerve (one of the three main nerves in the lower arm) becomes compressed in the wrist. Symptoms include tingling, numbness, pain and weakness in parts of the hand. People with diabetes are at increased risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.
CARDIOVASCULAR SYSTEM: The system of blood vessels, veins and arteries that deliver blood to all the tissues and organs in the body, including the heart and brain. The bloodstream carries nutrients (such as glucose) and oxygen to the cells and removes waste products. See CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE.
CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE: The general term for any disease of the cardiovascular system. People with diabetes are at high risk of cardiovascular disease.
CARDIOLOGIST: A medical doctor who specializes in the study, care and treatment of the heart.
CARBOHYDRATE: One of the main sources of calories. Sources of carbohydrates include sugars naturally found in honey, fruits, vegetables and milk; refined sugars such as table sugar and sugars added to candies, jams and soft drinks; and starches such as grains, rice, potatoes, corn and legumes. All forms of carbohydrate are broken down into glucose during digestion.
CARBOHYDRATE COUNTING A method of meal planning for people with diabetes based on counting the number of grams of carbohydrate in food.
CAPILLARY: The smallest blood vessel. Capillary walls are so thin that oxygen and glucose can pass through them and enter the cells. Waste products, such as carbon dioxide, pass back into the bloodstream via the capillaries to be carried away and removed from the body.
CALORIE: A measurement of the energy. The sources of calories in a diet are carbohydrate, protein, alcohol and fat.
CALLUS: A common, usually painless, thickening of the skin on the feet or hands caused by pressure or rubbing. People with diabetes and calluses should receive advice and treatment from a qualified foot care or health professional. See PODIATRIST, CHIROPODIST.
CALCIUM: Calcium is a mineral that you need to maintain good health. It forms the structure of your bones and teeth and helps your muscles work. Calcium is found in dairy foods, dark green vegetables, fortified soy beverages and salmon or sardines canned with bones.
C PEPTIDE: A protein formed in the beta cells of the pancreas. A test of C-peptide levels indicates how well the beta cells are functioning.
DEBRIDEMENT: The cleaning and removal of dead, damaged or infected tissue from a wound to improve healing. See ULCER, AMPUTATION, DIABETIC NEUROPATHY.
DEHYDRATION: A state in which there is the loss of too much water from body tissues. It can occur when blood glucose readings are high for long periods of time. It can also result from not drinking enough water, or from too much sweating, vomiting or diarrhea. Symptoms can include extreme thirst, irritability, confusion, nausea, exhaustion and flushed, dry skin.
DEXTROSE: Another name for glucose (sugar). Dextrose/glucose tablets are often used to treat mild or moderate hypoglycemia.
DIABETES CONTROL AND COMPLICATIONS TRIAL (DCCT): A nine-year study conducted during the 1990s designed to test whether persistently high blood glucose readings were related to the development of complications in people with type 1 diabetes. The readings demonstrated that intensive treatment to achieve tight blood glucose targets delayed the onset and progression of long-term complications of diabetes.
DIABETES EDUCATOR: A health professional trained to teach patients about diabetes and how to make adjustments to diabetes treatments. He or she may also be trained as a nurse, dietitian, pharmacist, psychologist or other health professional. See CERTIFIED DIABETES EDUCATOR.
DIABETES (also referred to as Diabetes Mellitus): A disease in which the body either cannot produce insulin or cannot properly use the insulin it produces. This leads to high levels of glucose in the blood, which can damage organs, blood vessels and nerves. See GESTATIONAL DIABETES MELLITUS, TYPE 1 DIABETES, TYPE 2 DIABETES.
DIABETIC NEUROPATHY: Nerve damage caused by diabetes usually in the hands and feet. See AMPUTATION, MONOFILAMENT, NEUROPATHY, ULCER.
DIABETIC RETINOPATHY: A disease in which the small blood vessels (capillaries) in the back of the eye (retina) bleed or form new vessels. This condition usually occurs in people with long-standing diabetes. Regular eye examinations are an important part of diabetes management.
DIETITIAN: A health professional who teaches and advises people about the kinds and amounts of foods that promote good health and in treatment of disease.
DYSLIPIDIMIA: Abnormal levels of lipids in the blood.
EPIDEMIOLOGY: The study of the occurrence, distribution and causes of diseases in humans.
ENDOCRINE DISEASE: Any disease of the endocrine system. Diabetes is an endocrine disease because if affects the pancreas, a gland that produces the hormone insulin.
ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION: The inability to develop or maintain an erection of the penis. Diabetes is a common cause of erectile dysfunction.
END-STAGE RENAL DISEASE: The final phase of kidney disease, treated with hemodialysis or kidney transplant. Kidney disease resulting from poorly controlled diabetes (diabetic nephropathy) is the most common cause of end-stage renal disease in North America.
EXERCISE ELECTROCARDIOGRAM (ECG) STRESS TEST: A test used to measure how the heart responds to physical effort. It usually involves walking on a treadmill or pedaling a stationary bike while the heart and blood pressure are measured. It is used to identify heart problems, check the effectiveness of heart medications and help people plan a safe exercise program.
EDEMA: Swelling or puffiness caused by fluid collecting in the tissues. See CEREBRAL EDEMA, DIABETIC KETOACIDOSIS.
ENDOCRINE SYSTEM: The system of glands in the body that produce hormones.
ENDOCRINOLOGIST: A medical doctor who specializes in diseases of the endocrine system.
FIBRE: The part of food that cannot be digested and used for energy. Diets high in fibre may help prevent some common diseases. High-fibre foods include whole grains, fruits and vegetables, legumes and nuts.
FOLIC ACID: One of the B vitamins, necessary for the creation of new cells and maintenance of existing cells. It is occurs naturally in liver, legumes and leafy green vegetables and is added to many vitamin supplements and some foods such as cereals.
FRUCTOSE: A simple sugar found in many foods, including honey, fruits and some root vegetables.
FAMILIAL OCCURRENCE: A pattern of a disease within a family. Studies in families and twins have shown that type 2 diabetes is far more likely to run in families than type 1 diabetes.
FAT: The most concentrated source of calories in a diet. While fat is an important part of a healthy diet, too much fat, especially saturated fat, can increase the risk of obesity, heart disease and stroke. See SATURATED FAT, UNSATURATED FAT, POLYUNSATURATED FAT, TRANS FAT.
GLYCOSURIA: The presence of high levels of glucose in the urine, which can indicate abnormally high blood glucose readings.
GASTROPARESIS: A form of nerve damage that affects the stomach and intestines, causing them to take too long to empty their contents. Diabetes is a major cause of gastroparesis. See AUTONOMIC NEUROPATHY.
GESTATIONAL DIABETES MELLITUS (GDM): Diabetes that is first diagnosed or first develops during pregnancy. It affects 2% to 4% of all pregnancies. Blood glucose readings usually return to normal following delivery. Both mother and child are at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
GLYCOSYLATED HEMOGLOBIN (A1C): A measure of the blood glucose readings over the previous 120 days. People with diabetes should have their A1C measured approximately every three months.
GANGRENE: The death or decay of body tissues, usually due to loss of blood supply to the affected area, which may be followed by bacterial infection. See DIABETIC NEUROPATHY, AMPUTATION.
GLYCOGEN: The main form in which carbohydrate is stored in the liver and muscles. It is readily broken down to glucose for use when energy is needed.
GLYCEMIC INDEX: A scale that ranks carbohydrate-rich foods by how much they raise blood glucose readings.
GLUCOSE GEL: Glucose in a gel form that is eaten to treat low blood glucose.
GLUCOSE: A simple form of sugar that acts as fuel for the body. It is produced during digestion of carbohydrate and carried in the blood to the body’s cells.
GLUCAGON: A hormone produced by the pancreas that causes an increase in the blood glucose level, and thus has the opposite effect of insulin. Glucagon can also be given by injection to treat severe hypoglycemia.
GLAUCOMA: An eye disease in which increased pressure in the eyeball causes damage to the optic nerve and gradual loss of sight. People with diabetes are at higher risk of developing glaucoma.
GLAND: An organ or group of cells that is specialized for making and secreting certain fluids for use in the body. There are two main types of glands: exocrine glands that secrete their fluids from ducts, and endocrine glands that secrete hormones directly into the bloodstream. The pancreas is an endocrine gland that produces and secretes the hormone insulin.
GINGIVITIS: Inflammation (swelling) of the gums, which causes them to bleed. People with diabetes are at higher risk of developing gingivitis.
HYPOTHYROIDISM: A disease in which the production of thyroid hormone is reduced. Symptoms include slow metabolism, tendency to gain weight and fatigue. See AUTOIMMUNE THYROID DISEASE.
HYPOGLYCEMIA UNAWARENESS: A state in which a person does not feel or recognize the symptoms of low blood glucose. People who have frequent episodes of hypoglycemia may no longer feel the warning signs of low blood glucose and are at high risk of severe hypoglycemia.
HYPOGLYCEMIA: Lower than normal blood glucose. Symptoms depend on how low the blood glucose level is and include sweating, trembling, hunger, dizziness, moodiness, confusion, headache, blurred vision and nausea.
HYPERTENSION: High blood pressure.
HYPERGLYCEMIA (also HYPERGLYCAEMIA): Higher than normal levels of glucose in the blood. Symptoms depend on how high the blood glucose level is, but can include thirst, frequent urination, blurred vision and fatigue.
HYPERCHOLESTEROLEMIA: Higher than normal levels of cholesterol in the blood.
HUMAN INSULIN: A synthetic form of insulin created in the 1990s using recombinant-DNA technology. For more information on insulins see Insulin Things You Should Know.
HYPERLIPOPROTEINEMIA: The presence of higher than normal amounts of certain lipids and other fatty substances in the blood.
HONEYMOON PERIOD: The period of time after the diagnosis of type 1 diabetes when the dose of insulin may need to be reduced due to remaining or recovered insulin secretion from the pancreas. This period can last weeks, months or years.
HIGH-DENSITY LIPOPROTEIN CHOLESTEROL (HDL-C): A type of cholesterol that is involved in transporting cholesterol and other lipids from the body. It is sometimes called “good” cholesterol because high levels of HDL can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. See LOW-DENSITY LIPOPROTEIN CHOLESTEROL, TRIGLYCERIDE.
HEMODIALYSIS: A method of removing waste materials or poisons from the blood. This process is used on patients whose kidneys are failing. See DIABETIC NEPHROPATHY, END-STAGE RENAL DISEASE.
HORMONE: A substance produced in one part of the body that is released into the bloodstream and travels to other organs or tissues where it acts to change their structure or function. For example, insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas that travels throughout the body and affects the cells’ and tissues’ ability to use glucose for energy. Other hormones control growth and development, reproduction and sexual characteristics.
INSULIN ANALOGUE: Insulin that is made chemically as a modification of human insulin. Analogues include insulin lispro, insulin aspart, insulin glargine and insulin detemir. For more information on insulins, see Insulin – Things You Should Know.
INSULIN-DEPENDENT DIABETES MELLITUS (IDDM)): The former term for type 1 diabetes. The term is no longer used, as many people with type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes mellitus also require insulin.
INSULIN LIPODYSTROPHY: The loss of fatty tissue that can occur as a result of repeated insulin injections in the same area.
INSULIN PEN: An injection device the size of a pen that includes a needle and holds a vial of insulin. It can be used instead of syringes for giving insulin injections.
INSULIN PUMP: A portable, battery-operated device that delivers a specific amount of insulin through a small needle inserted under the skin. It can be programmed to deliver constant doses of insulin throughout the day and/or deliver extra insulin as required. Also called continuous subcutaneous insulin infusion (CSII).
INSULIN RECEPTORS: Areas on the outer walls of a cell that permit insulin to bind to the cell. When cells and insulin bind together, the cell is able to take glucose from the bloodstream and use it for energy.
INSULIN RESISTANCE: A condition in which the body’s cells and tissues do not respond properly to the effects of insulin. It is a key feature of type 2 diabetes.
INSULIN: A hormone produced by the beta cells of the pancreas that controls the amount of glucose in the blood. Insulin lowers blood glucose by helping move glucose into the body’s cells, where it is used as fuel.
INTENSIVE MANAGEMENT: A treatment program for diabetes. The goal of intensive management is to imitate the function of a healthy pancreas by taking several doses of insulin throughout the day, by injections or an insulin pump.
IRON: Iron is a mineral that is important for your health. Iron helps your body produce red blood cells and moves oxygen throughout the body. Iron can be found in foods such as dried fruits, eggs, fish and seafood, enriched grain products, legumes, meats, poultry and asparagus and spinach.
ISCHEMIA: An inadequate supply of blood to body tissues or organs. It can occur if blood vessels are narrowed or constricted.
ISLET TRANSPLANTATION: Removal of the insulin-producing beta (islet) cells from a donor pancreas and placement of the cells into a person with type 1 diabetes. Several centres in Canada offer islet cell transplants to carefully selected people with type 1 diabetes. Although initial results are encouraging, the procedure is still in the research stage, and patients require lifelong drugs to prevent their bodies from rejecting the donor cells.
ISLETS OF LANGERHANS: Clusters of cells scattered throughout the pancreas that produce the hormones insulin and glucagon. See ALPHA CELLS and BETA CELLS.
JUVENILE-ONSET DIABETES: The former term for type 1 diabetes. It is no longer used, as type 1 diabetes is also diagnosed in adults.
KETONES: Products created when fat is broken down to be used for energy. The body normally gets rid of excess ketones in the urine. However, if levels of ketones get too high, they accumulate in the body and can lead to ketoacidosis, coma and even death. See KETOACIDOSIS, CEREBRAL EDEMA.
KETOACIDOSIS: An acute and severe complication of diabetes that is the result of high levels of blood glucose and ketones. It is often associated with poor control of diabetes or occurs as a complication of other illnesses. It can be life threatening and requires emergency treatment. Signs and symptoms include fruity odor on the breath, shortness of breath, confusion, nausea, vomiting and weight loss.
LOW-DENSITY LIPOPROTEIN CHOLESTEROL (LDL-C): Particles that carry cholesterol in the blood and around the body for use by cells. LDL-C is commonly known as “bad” cholesterol because high levels of LDL-C lead to increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Because most people with diabetes are at very high risk of heart disease, it is very important to achieve recommended LDL-C targets (2.0 mmol/L or lower for most people with diabetes). This usually requires medication.
LIPIDS: Fats that are produced naturally in humans and animals or that are added to certain foods. Abnormal levels of certain lipids, such as cholesterol, triglyceride and trans fatty acids, are risk factors for cardiovascular diseases. See LDL-C, HDL-C, TRIGLYCERIDE.
LEGUMES: Edible seeds or pods such as beans, lentils, peas and peanuts.
LATENT AUTOIMMUNE DIABETES IN ADULTS (LADA): A rare type of diabetes in which the body’s immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells in its own pancreas. In this sense, LADA is similar to type 1 diabetes, but because it occurs in adults, it is often initially mistaken for type 2 diabetes. See AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE.
LASER TREATMENT: A treatment for diabetic retinopathy that involves a source of intense radiation that targets damaged areas of the retina.
LANCET: A fine, sharp-pointed blade or needle for pricking the skin, used to obtain a blood drop for blood glucose testing. See SELF-MONITORING OF BLOOD GLUCOSE (SMBG), BLOOD GLUCOSE MONITOR/METER.
MULTIPLE DAILY INJECTIONS (MDI): As part of intensive diabetes management, several insulin injections are given per day, including injections of rapid-acting insulin before each meal, as well as injections of long-acting insulin.
MACROSOMIC: Abnormally large. Often used to describe abnormally large babies that are born to women with diabetes.
MACROVASCULAR COMPLICATION: Disease of the large blood vessels that can occur when a person has had diabetes for a long time. Common macrovascular complications include diseases of the heart (such as a heart attack), the brain (such as stroke) and the blood vessels that supply the extremities (such as the legs). See CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE.
MACULAR EDEMA: A swelling in the macula, an area near the centre of the retina, the part of the eye that is responsible for fine or reading vision. People with diabetes are at higher risk of macular edema.
MALTITOL: A sugar alcohol used as a sugar substitute.
MANNITOL: A sugar alcohol used as a sugar substitute.
MATURITY-ONSET DIABETES OF THE YOUNG (MODY): Any of several rare hereditary forms of diabetes due to defects of insulin secretion from the pancreas. There are several types of MODY, and they vary in severity. Most often MODY appears like a very mild version of type 1 diabetes, with some insulin production and normal insulin sensitivity. MODY is not type 2 diabetes in a young person.
METABOLIC SYNDROME: A combination of medical problems that increase risk of heart disease and diabetes. People with metabolic syndrome (also known as Syndrome X) have some or all of the following: high blood glucose, high blood pressure, abdominal obesity, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol, high triglycerides and insulin resistance. For more information, see Metabolic Syndrome.
METABOLISM: The sum of all the chemical changes that take place in the body that generate energy and allow tissues and cells to grow, function, use nutrients and eliminate waste.
mg/dL: The abbreviation for milligrams per deciliter. In the United States, blood glucose is expressed in mg/dL. To convert mg/dL to mmol/L (the unit used in Canada), divide by 18.
MICROVASCULAR COMPLICATION: Any disease of the small blood vessels that can occur when a person has had diabetes for a long time. Common microvascular complications include eye disease (diabetic retinopathy), kidney disease (diabetic nephropathy) and damage to the nerves in the hands and feet (diabetic neuropathy).
mmol/L: The abbreviation for millimoles per litre. In Canada, blood glucose is described in mmol/L. To convert mmol/L to mg/dL (the unit of measurement for blood glucose used in the United States), multiply by 18.
MONOFILAMENT: A synthetic thread used to test for nerve damage in the foot. A health professional provider gently touches the sole of the person’s foot with the monofilament, and the person is asked to say when he or she feels it. People with diabetes should have a monofilament test at least once a year.
MONOUNSATURATED FAT: ‘Good’ fats that are found in foods such as nuts, avocados, canola oil, grape seed oil and olive oil.
MORBIDITY RATE: The number of cases of a particular disease occurring in a single year. Often expressed as ‘x cases per 1,000 people.’
MORTALITY RATE: The number of people who die from a specific illness in relation to the total population. Usually expressed as the number of deaths per 1,000, 10,000 or 100,000 people.
NORMOGLYCEMIA: Normal blood glucose level.
NOCTURNAL HYPOGLYCEMIA: Low blood glucose readings occurring at night, generally during sleep. Signs of nocturnal hypoglycemia are low pre-breakfast blood glucose readings; nightmares or seizures during the night; impaired thinking, sluggishness or headache in the morning.
NON-INSULIN-DEPENDENT DIABETES MELLITUS (NIDDM): The former term for type 2 diabetes. It is no longer used, as many people with type 2 diabetes require insulin.
NEUROPATHY: Any disease of the peripheral nerves, usually causing numbness and/or weakness and/or pain in the hands and feet. See DIABETIC NEUROPATHY.
NEPHROPATHY: Any disease of the kidneys. See DIABETIC NEPHROPATHY.
NEPHROLOGIST: a medical doctor who specializes in the study, care and treatment of diseases of the kidney.
ORTHOTIC: A molded insert for a shoe designed to improve posture and a person’s manner of walking.
OMEGA-3 FAT: A polyunsaturated fat found in oily fish and some vegetable sources, such as seeds and nuts. A diet rich in omega-3 fats is believed to help improve cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of heart disease.
OBESITY: An abnormal increase in the proportion of fat cells. Obesity is often be accompanied by other health problems and is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
OPHTHALMOLOGIST: A medical doctor who specializes in the study, treatment and care of the eyes. See OPTOMETRIST.
OPTOMETRIST: A health professional who examines the eyes to detect and treat eye problems and some diseases by prescribing glasses and/or other visual aids. Optometrists are not medical doctors. See OPHTHALMOLOGIST.
ORAL ANTIHYPERGLYCEMIC AGENT: Oral antihyperglycemic agents are pills taken for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. For more information on the medications used to treat diabetes see the Consumer Guide
ORAL GLUCOSE TOLERANCE TEST (OGTT): A test to measure the body’s ability to break down and use carbohydrate. It is used to diagnose diabetes and prediabetes. A standard dose of glucose as a drink is given and blood glucose readings are measured at regular intervals (usually fasting, one hour and two hours after drinking the glucose drink).
OFF-LOADING: Shifting weight from sensitive or injured parts of the feet using orthotics, specialized shoes or casts. This may be necessary in people with diabetes to prevent the development of a foot ulcer or to help a foot ulcer heal.
PROTEIN: 0provides the body with material for building body tissue, blood cells and hormones.
PRE-PRANDIAL: Before meals.
PREDIABETES: A condition in which a person’s blood glucose level is above normal, but not high enough to be considered diabetes. Prediabetes has no symptoms and can only be diagnosed with a blood test. It is also called impaired glucose tolerance or impaired fasting glucose. People with prediabetes are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease and should take steps to lower these risks. See ORAL GLUCOSE TOLERANCE TEST. For more information, see Prediabetes.
PRE-CONCEPTION COUNSELING: Discussion with a health professional prior to becoming pregnant. Women with diabetes should have pre-conception counseling to learn about the effects of diabetes on the mother and baby, and the use of an effective birth control method until the woman is able to achieve and maintain good blood glucose control. Women who have had Gestational Diabetes are also advised to have counseling before subsequent pregnancies.
POST-PRANDIAL: After meals.
PANCREAS: An organ in the digestive system that produces several important hormones, including insulin and glucagon. It also produces pancreatic juice containing enzymes that help digestion.
PANCREAS TRANSPLANTATION: A surgical procedure that involves replacing the pancreas of a person whose pancreas is damaged (such as someone with diabetes) with a healthy pancreas from a donor.
PEDIATRICIAN: A medical doctor who specializes in the care and treatment of children.
PHARMACIST: A health professional who is qualified to dispense medication. A pharmacist can advise about insulin, oral antihyperglycemic agents and other medications, and diabetes supplies such as glucose meters, syringes and lancets.
PLANT STEROLS: Substances that play the same cell-building role in plants that cholesterol plays in humans. They are found in small amounts in vegetable oils. Plant sterols have cholesterol-lowering properties.
PODIATRIST: A health professional who studies, diagnoses and treats disorders of the feet.
POLYCYSTIC OVARY SYNDROME: A condition characterized by obesity, menstrual problems, enlarged ovaries and insulin resistance. It is a leading cause of infertility. Women with polycystic ovary syndrome are at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
POLYUNSATURATED FAT: “Good" fats found in grain products, fish (such as herring, salmon, mackerel, halibut), seafood, soybeans and fish oil.
SODIUM: A major component of salt. Diets high in sodium can lead to high blood pressure. People with diabetes and/or high blood pressure are encouraged to limit the amount of sodium in their diet.
SUCRALOSE: An artificial sweetener. Unlike aspartame, it is not destroyed when heated, so it can be used for cooking and baking.
STROKE: The sudden interruption in the flow of blood to the brain. Depending on the severity of the stroke and the brain area it affects, it can cause paralysis, weakness, vision and speech problems. People with diabetes are at high risk of stroke.
SORBITOL: A sugar alcohol used as a sugar substitute.
SUGAR: A simple form of carbohydrate that provides calories and raises blood glucose readings.
SOCIAL WORKER: A health professional who can cares for people with social or emotional problems. Social workers are often members of the diabetes health team.
SEXUAL FUNCTION HISTORY: Men may have difficulty with erections or ejaculation, and women may have problems with sexual response or vaginal lubrication. Sexual complications are common in people with diabetes.
SACCHARIN: A very sweet substance used as a substitute for sugar. Saccharin should not be used in pregnancy.
SATURATED FAT: The ‘bad’ fat found in foods such as butter, lard, coconut oil, dairy products (especially cream and cheese) and meat. A diet that is too high in these fats increases a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease.
SELF-MONITORING OF BLOOD GLUCOSE (SMBG): Blood testing done by a person with diabetes with a blood glucose meter/monitor to determine how much glucose is in the blood. SMBG helps people with diabetes and their health professionals make decisions about their medications, diet and exercise in order to achieve good blood glucose control.
TOTAL CHOLESTEROL TO HDL-C RATIO: The proportion of HDL-C to total cholesterol. The recommended TC/HDL-C ratio for most people with diabetes is less than 4.0.
TRIGLYCERIDE: The main component of vegetable oil and animal fats. In the human body, high levels of triglycerides raise the risk of heart disease and stroke.
TOTAL CHOLESTEROL: The combined measurement of all types of cholesterol in the blood.
TYPE 2 DIABETES: A disease that occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to meet the body’s needs and/or the body is unable to respond properly to the actions of insulin (insulin resistance). Type 2 diabetes usually occurs later in life (although it can occur in younger people) and affects approximately 90% of people with diabetes. There is no cure. It is treated with careful attention to diet and exercise and usually also diabetes pills (oral antihyperglycemic agents) and/or insulin. Formerly called non-insulin-dependent diabetes or adult-onset diabetes.
TRANS FAT: One of the four types of fats found in foods. Small amounts of trans fats occur naturally in some foods, but most trans fats are ingredients added to fast foods, prepackaged snack and convenience foods, baked goods and restaurant meals. Trans fats raise LDL (’bad’) cholesterol levels and lower of HDL (’good’) cholesterol levels, which increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Everyone should limit the amount of trans fat they eat. See SATURATED FATS, MONOUNSATURATED FATS, and POLYUNSATURATED FATS.
TYPE 1 DIABETES: An autoimmune disease that occurs when the pancreas no longer produces any insulin or produces very little insulin. Type 1 diabetes usually develops in childhood or adolescence and affects approximately 10% of people with diabetes. There is no cure. It is treated with lifelong insulin injections and careful attention to diet and physical activity. Formerly called insulin-dependent diabetes or juvenile diabetes.
URINE TESTS: Tests to measure levels of substances such as glucose or ketones in the urine.
UNSATURATED FAT: The “good” fat found in foods, such as avocado, nuts, and soybean, canola and olive oils. Substituting saturated fats with unsaturated fats helps to lower levels of total cholesterol and LDL (’bad’) cholesterol.
UNITED KINGDOM PROSPECTIVE DIABETES STUDY (UKPDS): A 20-year study that included over 5,000 patients with type 2 diabetes in the United Kingdom. It investigated the effect of different treatments on the health and well being of people with type 2 diabetes. It found that better blood glucose control and better blood pressure control could significantly reduce a person’s risk of developing the complications of diabetes, especially diabetic retinopathy and diabetic nephropathy.
ULCER: A break in the skin or a deep sore. People with diabetes may get ulcers from minor scrapes on the feet or legs, from cuts that heal slowly, or from the rubbing caused by shoes that do not fit well. Ulcers can become infected and lead to serious problems such as gangrene and amputation. See DIABETIC NEUROPATHY.
VITAMIN C: Vitamin C is important for your health because it helps your body absorb iron, heal wounds and acts as an antioxidant. The best foods to eat to get vitamin C are fruits and vegetables.
VITAMIN A: Vitamin A is important for your health because it is needed for normal bone growth, it keeps your skin healthy and can help you see better at night. You can get vitamin A by eating dairy products, eggs, fish and seafood, liver, leafy green vegetables, and orange fruits and vegetables.
VASCULAR DISEASE: Any disease of the blood vessels.
WAIST CIRCUMFERENCE: A measurement of waist size, taken around the abdomen just above the hipbones. A waist circumference of 102 cm (40 inches) or more in men and 88 cm (35 inches) or more in women is associated with increased health risks.
XYLITOL: A sweetener found in plants and used as a substitute for sugar; it is called a nutritive sweetener because it provides some calories, just like sugar.

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Last updated: February 18, 2016

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