Diabetes Terms to Know

A1C- Also called Hemoglobin A1C, this is a blood test that calculates your estimated blood glucose levels over a 3 month period. It can be used to give your doctor a better understanding of your diabetes control.

CDE- A Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) is a health care professional who has a lot of experience and training to help people manage their diabetes.  A CDE can help you create a lifestyle program and medication routine that is right for you to control your diabetes and stay healthy. Look for the letters CDE behind your health care provider's name to know if she or he is a Certified Diabetes Educator.

Diabetic Neuropathy- Diabetic neuropathy is the term used to talk about nerve damage that has been caused by uncontrolled or poorly managed diabetes.  It may start as tingling or pain in your hands and feet, and may progress to numbness.  Having diabetic neuropathy puts you at risk for infections and amputations because you may not be able to feel cuts or burns that you cannot see and wounds won't heal as quickly as they should. This is why it is important to check your feet regularly for cuts or open areas.

Endocrinologist- An endochronologist is a doctor who specializes in treating conditions that have to do with glands and hormones.  Because diabetes is related to the pancreas and the hormone insulin, if your primary health care provider is unable to control your diabetes, you may be sent to an endocrinologist.

Fasting Glucose- The term fasting glucose refers to the amount of glucose, or sugar, in your blood when you have not eaten.  In a person without diabetes, the body clears sugar out of the blood and into the cells quickly so their fasting glucose levels are low.  A person with diabetes will have high fasting glucose levels, meaning their body has not cleared sugar out of the blood. 

Glucose- Glucose is another word for sugar.  Your health care professional may use the word glucose and sugar interchangably. 

Hyperglycemia- Hyperglycemia is the medical term used to talk about high blood sugar.  It can be caused by eating too many carbs, illness, stress, or not taking your medication or insulin as prescribed.  Hyperglycemia can cause kidney failure, blindness, infections, and nerve damage.

Hypoglycemia- Hypoglycemia is the opposite of hyperglycemia.  It is the medical term that describes low  blood sugar.  It is a dangerous condition that can be caused by not eating regularly scheduled meals, taking too much medication or insulin, or doing too much physical activity without checking your blood glucose. Remember hyp-O-glycemia means lOw blood sugar.

Insulin-  Insulin is a naturally occuring hormone secreted by the pancreas.  It carries sugar from your blood, into your cells where it can be used for energy.  When your blood glucose is too high, your pancreas should make more insulin. However, in diabetes, sometimes your cells don't respond to insulin, or your pancreas can't make enough, leaving the sugar in your blood and starving your cells. This is what leads to high blood sugar.  Some people with diabetes, both type 1 and type 2, are prescribed insulin by their doctor.  Insulin is given as an injection that is very tightly controlled to avoid lowering the blood glucose too much.

Ketosis- Ketosis is a condition that occurs when your cells don't get the sugar they need, so they begin to break down fat and form "Ketones" to give them energy.  Ketosis is not always dangerous, but if the cells go without sugar for too long, it can lead to a build-up of ketones and a condition called Ketoacidosis, which is potentially life threatening. Ketosis can be accompanied by sweet smelling breath, so check your blood sugar if you notice a sweet smell.  Ketosis can be avoided by following a consistent carbohydrate diet and taking all medications and insulins exactly as prescribed.  

Microalbumin- Along with testing your blood glucose levels, your healthcare provider may ask for a urine test called a microalbumin.  This is a measure of the amount of protein, or albumin, found in your urine.  If your diabetes has caused kidney damage, your microalbumin will be high.  Your doctor may perform this test at the begining of your diabetes treatment to know your baseline measures, and again as needed to keep track of your kidney function.

Nephropathy- If you have been diagnosed with diabetic nephropathy, it means your diabetes has caused damage to your kidney. Chronic high blood glucose levels can damage the small vessels in your kidney, leading to nephropathy. You may have to follow a special diet, or begin dialysis treatments. Managing your diabetes can help prevent the onset of nephropathy.

Oral-hypoglycemic- A common type of medication used to treat diabetes is called an oral-hypoglycemic.  It is a medication, usually a pill, that lowers your blood glucose.  These pills work with the insulin your body already produces, and are not appropriate for people with type 1 diabetes.  Always take all medications as prescribed to avoid complications.