Diabetes Dictionary

To take care and control of your diabetes means learning about diabetes and the many related medical and management terms. Diabetic Living has assembled these important-to-know words in an online diabetes dictionary. This diabetes dictionary has been adapted from the Diabetes Dictionary from the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse.

A - C


ACE inhibitor: A medication that lowers blood pressure. ACE stands for angiotensin-converting enzyme. For PWDs who have protein (albumin) in the urine, ACE inhibitors can be used to slow kidney damage.

Albumin, albuminuria: Albumin is the main protein in blood. PWDs who are developing diabetic kidney disease (nephropathy) leak small amounts of albumin into the urine, a condition called microalbuminuria. As kidney disease progresses, more albumin leaks into the urine and becomes a condition called macroalbuminuria or proteinuria. As the amount of albumin in the urine increases, the kidneys' ability to filter the blood decreases.

A1C (hemoglobin A1C, glycosylated hemoglobin): A blood test that measures a person's average blood glucose level over the past two to three months. Hemoglobin is the part of a red blood cell that carries oxygen to the cells and sometimes joins with glucose in the bloodstream. Also called hemoglobin A1C or glycosylated hemoglobin, the test shows the amount of glucose that sticks to the red blood cell, which is proportional to the amount of glucose in the blood. Results are given as a percentage. The goal for control according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA) is 7 percent or less.

Atherosclerosis: Clogging, narrowing, and hardening of the body's large blood vessels, also called arteries. Atherosclerosis can lead to coronary heart disease, heart attack, peripheral arterial disease, stroke, and transient ischemic attack. It can also damage the arteries that go to the kidneys.

Autonomic neuropathy: A type of diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage) that can affect the lungs, heart, stomach, intestines, bladder, or genitals.

Autoimmune disease: A disorder of the body's immune system in which it mistakenly attacks and destroys body tissue that it believes to be foreign. Type 1 diabetes is considered an autoimmune disease.


Beta cell: A cell that makes insulin located in the islets of the pancreas.

Blood glucose level: The amount of glucose in a given amount of blood. In the United States, blood glucose levels are noted in milligrams per deciliter, or mg/dl. Many other countries use mmol/l (millimoles per liter).

Blood glucose monitoring, meter: Checking blood glucose levels by using a lancet to get a blood sample, which is placed on a strip inserted into a blood glucose meter. The goal of monitoring is to give people insight into their blood glucose control and use the data with their health care provider to improve their diabetes control.

Blood pressure: The force of blood exerted on the inside walls of blood vessels. Blood pressure is expressed as two numbers. For example, a blood pressure result of 120/80 mmHg is said as "120 over 80." The first number is the systolic pressure, or the pressure when the heart pushes blood into the arteries. The second number is the diastolic pressure, or the pressure when the heart rests.

Body mass index (BMI): A measure used to evaluate body weight relative to a person's height. BMI is used to classify a person as underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese.


Calorie: A unit representing the energy provided by food. Carbohydrate, protein, fat, and alcohol provide calories. Carbohydrate and protein have 4 calories per gram, fat has 9 calories per gram, and alcohol has 7 calories per gram.

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.

Cardiovascular disease: Disease of the heart and blood vessels (arteries, capillaries, and veins).

Cerebral vascular disease: Damage to blood vessels in the brain. Vessels can burst and bleed or become clogged with fatty deposits. A stroke results when blood flow is interrupted and brain cells die or are damaged.

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

Cholesterol: A type of fat produced by the liver and found in the blood. Cholesterol is also found in some foods. The body uses cholesterol to make hormones and build cell walls.

Chronic kidney disease (CKD): Any condition that causes reduced kidney function over a period of time. CKD is present when a person’s glomerular filtration rate (GFR) remains below 60 milliliters per minute for more than three months. CKD may develop over many years and lead to end-stage renal disease.

C-peptide: A substance the pancreas releases into the bloodstream in equal amounts to insulin. A test of a person’s C-peptide level shows how much insulin the body still makes. Insulin taken as a medication does not contain C-peptide.