Glossary of Diabetes Terms

A-G    H-I   J-Z


A test that gives you a picture of your average estimated blood sugar level over the past 2 to 3 months. The results show how well your diabetes care plan is working.

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basal insulin

See Long-acting insulin.

beta cells

Cells in the pancreas that release insulin. In people with diabetes, the beta cells stop releasing or release less insulin.

blood sugar (or blood glucose)

The main sugar (glucose) found in the blood and the body’s main source of energy.

blood sugar level (or blood glucose level)

The amount of sugar in a given amount of blood. It is noted in milligrams per deciliter, or mg/dL.

bolus insulin

Insulin taken to cover an expected rise in blood sugar, often related to a meal or snack. See fast-acting insulin.

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See Diabetes mellitus.

diabetes mellitus

A disease characterized by hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) resulting from the body’s inability to use blood sugar for energy.

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fast-acting insulin

A type of insulin that starts to lower blood sugar within 5 to 10 minutes after injection and has its strongest effect 30 minutes to 3 hours after injection, depending on the type used.

fasting plasma glucose (also fasting blood glucose test)

A blood test to determine the blood sugar level after the person has not eaten for 8 to 12 hours (usually overnight). This test is used to diagnose prediabetes and diabetes. It is also used to monitor people with diabetes.


See Fasting plasma glucose.

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A hormone that helps the pancreas release the right amount of insulin to move sugar from the blood into the cells.


A hormone released by the pancreas that helps move sugar into the blood from the liver.


Sugar. “Blood glucose” is another way to say “blood sugar.”

glucose tablets

Chewable tablets made of pure sugar used for treating low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).

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A natural substance that is made by glands in the body and that controls the activity of certain cells or organs.


High blood sugar.


Low blood sugar.

hypoglycemia unawareness

A state in which a person does not feel or recognize the symptoms of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). People who have frequent episodes of low blood sugar may no longer have the warning signs of it.

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A hormone made by the pancreas that helps sugar move from the blood into the cells. Insulin is also a medicine that is used to treat diabetes by controlling the level of sugar in the blood.

insulin analog

A slightly modified version of the insulin produced by the body. This allows the insulin to have different characteristics that may help to manage diabetes more effectively.

insulin pen

A device for injecting insulin that looks like an ink pen. Insulin pens either hold replaceable cartridges of insulin or are disposable and prefilled.

insulin pump

An insulin-delivering device about the size of a deck of cards that can be worn on a belt or kept in a pocket. An insulin pump connects to narrow, flexible plastic tubing that ends with a needle inserted just under the skin. Users set the pump to give a steady trickle or basal amount of insulin continuously throughout the day. Pumps release bolus doses of insulin at meals and at times when blood sugar is too high, based on programming and input done by the user.

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long-acting insulin

A type of insulin that starts to lower blood sugar within 1 hour after injection, and can last up to 26 hours.

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An oral medicine used to treat type 2 diabetes. It lowers blood sugar by reducing the amount of sugar produced by the liver and helping the body respond better to the insulin made in the pancreas.

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See Oral antidiabetic drug.

oral antidiabetic drug

Medicine taken by mouth by people with type 2 diabetes to keep blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible.

oral hypoglycemic

See Oral antidiabetic drug.

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A large gland behind the stomach. The pancreas makes pancreatic juices, or enzymes, to help the body digest food. It also makes the hormones insulin and glucagon.


The clear, yellowish fluid portion of the blood in which cells are suspended.

postprandial plasma glucose

The blood sugar level taken after eating. Also Postprandial blood glucose.


See Postprandial plasma glucose.


A condition in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal but are not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. People with prediabetes are at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes and for heart disease and stroke. Other names for prediabetes are impaired sugar tolerance and impaired fasting sugar.

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type 1 diabetes

Occurs when the pancreas does not produce any insulin. People with type 1 diabetes need to inject insulin.

type 2 diabetes

Occurs when the pancreas does not make enough insulin or the body cannot use insulin effectively (called “insulin resistance”).

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