A test that gives you a picture of your average blood sugar level over the past 2 to 3 months. The results show how well your diabetes is being controlled. The A1C test does this by measuring the amount of sugar (glucose) that has attached to the hemoglobin in your red blood cells. More sugar (glucose) means a higher A1C.

Basal insulin

See Long-acting insulin (basal insulin)

Blood sugar

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


Bolus insulin (prandial or mealtime insulin) is an extra amount of insulin taken to cover an expected rise in blood sugar during or after a meal or snack. It can also be taken when blood sugar is high.


Carbohydrates are the main kinds of food that raise blood sugar levels. Your digestive system changes carbohydrates into glucose (sugar), and then uses this sugar as a source of energy for your cells.

There are 3 main types of carbohydrates in food: starches (complex carbohydrates), sugars (simple carbohydrates), and fiber. Fiber is the part of plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, and nuts, that you can’t digest.

Diabetes care team

Your diabetes care team may include: a primary care doctor, a diabetes and hormone doctor (endocrinologist), a registered nurse, a diabetes educator, a dietician, a heart doctor (cardiologist), a foot doctor (podiatrist), an eye doctor (ophthalmologist/optometrist), a kidney doctor (nephrologist), a dentist, a pharmacist, and a mental health professional.

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA)

DKA is a condition that occurs when there is a lack of glucose in the body and a buildup of ketones in the blood. Ketones are made when the body uses fat for energy instead of sugar. This can happen when the ratio of glucose to insulin in the body is improper, so your cells don’t get the sugar they need to use for energy.


A hormone produced in the gut that helps the pancreas release insulin to move sugar from the blood into the cells. It stimulates the beta cells in the pancreas to release insulin when blood sugar is high after you eat. It also helps to lower the amount of sugar produced by the liver and slows down the emptying of the stomach.


A hormone released by the alpha cells in the pancreas that helps release sugar stored in the liver when your blood sugar levels are too low. Glucagon is available in an injectable form and can be used to quickly raise blood sugar in severe hypoglycemia.

Glycemic index (GI)

A ranking of carbohydrate-containing foods, based on the food’s effect on blood glucose when compared with a standard reference food. Foods with a high glycemic index raise blood glucose more rapidly than foods with a medium or low glycemic index.


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

Insulin analog

A drug made from a slightly modified version of human insulin. This allows the insulin to have different absorption 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. Most insulin pumps connect to narrow, flexible plastic tubing that ends with a needle inserted just under the skin. Users set the pump to provide insulin continuously throughout the day and night. Pumps can be used to provide bolus doses of insulin at meals and at times when blood sugar is too high, based on programming and input done by the user.


Organic compounds produced when the body breaks down fats and fatty acids to use as fuel. This is most likely to occur when the body does not have enough sugar or carbohydrates or the body cannot use sugar effectively. Because high levels of ketones are dangerous, a urine test is one way to check the level of ketones in your body.

Long-acting insulin (basal insulin)

A type of injected insulin that is absorbed slowly and starts to lower blood sugar within 4 to 6 hours after injection. Its strongest effect is 10 to 18 hours after injection depending on the product. This gives the body a low level of insulin to manage blood sugar between meals and overnight.

Metformin (biguanide)

An oral medicine in a class of drugs called biguanides used to treat type 2 diabetes. Metformin lowers blood sugar by reducing the amount of sugar produced by the liver and helping the body respond better to the insulin. It may also lower insulin resistance in the muscles.


Or diabetic neuropathy. A type of nerve damage caused by high blood sugar, often causing pain and numbness in the legs, feet, and other areas.

Non-insulin medicines

Medication other than insulin that is taken orally or by injection to treat diabetes.


A large gland behind the stomach. The pancreas not only makes pancreatic juices, or enzymes, to help the body digest food, but it also makes hormones such as insulin and glucagon, which are important for glucose metabolism.

Tight control

Intensive insulin therapy is a treatment approach designed to keep your blood sugar levels closer to the levels of someone who doesn’t have diabetes. This treatment requires close monitoring of blood sugar levels and multiple doses of insulin.

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