If you have diabetes, no doubt you’ve heard some key diabetes terms that keep cropping up in reading materials and in conversations with your healthcare providers. Here are some of the most common ones and what they mean, so you’ll always be in the loop.
A1C: Also known as hemoglobin A1C, this is a test that measures your average blood glucose level over the past two to three months. It’s often used to diagnose type 1 and type 2 diabetes and then to gauge if your blood sugar levels are staying within a target range. Find more about how to do an A1C test and what your targets should be to optimally manage your diabetes in this article.
Blood glucose: Another term for blood sugar and something you’ll check often when you have diabetes. Your blood glucose levels should never get too high or too low as this increases your risk of diabetes-related complications, such as hypergylcemia or hypoglycemia (see definitions for each below).
Blood glucose meter: A portable device used to measure how much sugar is in your blood at any given time. Generally, these meters come with a lancing device that is used to draw a drop of your blood to put on a test strip that is read by the device. Read more about home blood glucose meters and how to choose the best one for you, in this article.
Fasting sugar: Your blood sugar level when you haven’t eaten or had liquids for at least eight hours. This is used in diabetes testing as these levels provide clues as to how your body is managing blood sugar.
Neuropathy: A type of nerve damage that can occur when your blood sugar levels get too high. It typically affects the nerves in the feet and legs and can cause numbness among other symptoms. Find out more about neuropathic symptoms and when to seek help for potential nerve damage in this post.
Nephropathy: A type of kidney disease that can develop in diabetes when your blood sugar levels remain too high for too long. The best way to prevent or delay this condition is to manage your diabetes properly and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Get practical self-management tips in this article.
Gestational diabetes: A diagnosis of diabetes during pregnancy, which often ends after the baby is born. Find more on symptoms and treatment options here.
Glucagon: A treatment for severe hypoglycemia (i.e., when you are at risk of passing out or have already gone unconscious due to low blood sugar). It is injected just like insulin and can be administered in the buttock, upper arm or thigh. It’s a good idea to ensure your family and friends know how to give you glucagon in case of an emergency.
Hyperglycemia: A term used to describe high blood sugar, which happens when your body has too little insulin or can’t use the insulin it makes properly. Find more on causes, symptoms and how to treat hyperglycemia in this post.
Hypoglycemia: A term used to describe low blood sugar, which happens when your levels fall too low to provide the energy your body needs to function properly. Find more on causes, symptoms and how to treat hypoglycemia here.
Insulin: A hormone that is normally secreted by the cells within your pancreas. People with type 1 diabetes must take insulin because their bodies no longer produce it. Those with type 2 diabetes may be prescribed insulin to better control their blood sugar levels.
Ketones: Produced in the body from a breakdown of fat, ketones build up when there is insufficient insulin to help fuel the body’s cells. A high level of ketones is a common complication of diabetes. Find more about what ketones do in this article.
Metabolic syndrome: A combination of medical disorders—high blood pressure, high blood sugar, unhealthy cholesterol levels and excess abdominal fat—that have been linked to diabetes and heart disease. Find more on the risk factors for metabolic syndrome here.
Post-meal sugar: Your blood sugar levels two hours after eating. This is used in diabetes testing as these levels provide clues as to how your body is managing blood sugar.
Retinopathy: A condition of the eyes that can result in vision loss or impairment that is common in people with diabetes. Find tips on how to delay eye damage from diabetes in this article.