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.


D - E


Dawn phenomenon: The early-morning (4 to 8 a.m.) rise in blood glucose that occurs in some people.

Diabetes: A condition characterized by hyperglycemia (high blood glucose) resulting from the body's inability to use blood glucose for energy. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas no longer makes insulin; therefore, blood glucose cannot enter the cells to be used for energy. In type 2 diabetes, either the pancreas does not make enough insulin (insulin deficiency) or the body is unable to use insulin correctly (insulin resistance).

Diabetes educator: A health care professional who helps people with diabetes learn how to manage their condition. Some diabetes educators are certified diabetes educators (CDEs). Diabetes educators are found in hospitals, physician offices, managed-care organizations, home health care, and other settings. Many diabetes educators belong to the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE).

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA): An acute 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. This condition is more likely to develop in people with type 1 diabetes and rare in type 2 diabetes.

Diabetic retinopathy: Damage to the small blood vessels in the retina. Loss of vision may result. Also called diabetic eye disease.

Dietitian: A health care professional who advises people about meal planning, weight control, and diabetes management. A registered dietitian (RD) has met certain requirements.

Dilated eye exam: A test done by an eye care specialist (optometrist or ophthalmologist) in which the pupil -- the black center -- of the eye is temporarily enlarged with eyedrops to allow the specialist to see the inside of the eye more easily.

DPP-4 inhibitor: A category of oral blood glucose-lowering medications used to treat type 2 diabetes. It lowers blood glucose by helping the pancreas make more insulin and slowing the rise of blood glucose after eating. Several DPP-4 inhibitors are approved for use in the United States.


Endocrinologist: A physician who treats people who have endocrine problems such as diabetes.

End-stage renal disease (ESRD): Total and permanent kidney failure. When the kidneys fail, the body retains fluid. Harmful wastes build up. A person with ESRD needs treatment such as dialysis or a kidney transplant to replace the work of the failed kidneys.

Erectile dysfunction: The inability to get or maintain an erection for satisfactory sexual intercourse. Also called impotence.

Exenatide: An injectable blood glucose-lowering medication in the category of GLP-1 analogs for diabetes that mimics the effect of an incretin hormone made in the intestines called glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1). It helps the pancreas make more insulin, slows the rise of glucose after eating, and can decrease hunger and minimize food intake. In some people it can help with weight loss. Short-acting (taken twice a day) and longer-acting (once a week) forms of exenatide are approved in the United States.