From A1C to CGM and more, get familiar with the following terms to become an expert at managing type 2 diabetes.
Being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and managing the condition can feel overwhelming, especially at the beginning. Not only do we get thrown into the deep end of managing our blood sugars, but there are so many other things to learn. We have numbers to track, foods to eat, and specialists to see. It’s like learning a foreign language.
You’ll likely hear a lot of medical jargon from your healthcare team, and if you’re part of an online support community, you may find they have a language all their own.
Let this glossary of terms be your getting-started guide to all things type 2 diabetes.
Also known as hemoglobin A1C, this blood test assesses your average blood sugar levels over the past 3 months. It’s commonly used to diagnose type 2 diabetes. It’s also used as a benchmark to see how your current regimen is affecting your numbers. Most practitioners will order an A1C check every 3 to 6 months.
This type of neuropathy, or nerve damage, is a complication of type 2 diabetes that affects the nerves that control your body’s systems. It can affect your heart and blood vessels, sex organs, urinary tract, eyes, and digestive system.
The body’s main source of energy (found in the blood).
Blood pressure is the force of blood flow inside blood vessels. Higher blood pressure can lead to a higher risk of heart disease. You should discuss your target blood pressure numbers with your healthcare professional, but blood pressure levels below 120/80 mm Hg are within the normal range.
A term used when a person’s blood sugars fluctuate dramatically between high and low levels.
A substance released by the pancreas in equal amounts to insulin. A C-Peptide blood test can show how much insulin the body is making.
Counting the number of carbohydrates in each meal to calculate the appropriate insulin dose.
One of the three main nutrients that make up all food. Carbohydrates come in three forms: sugar, fiber, and starch.
Abbreviation for continuous glucose monitor. A CGM is a device that measures blood glucose without needing a finger stick. The device is most commonly worn on the stomach or the back of the arm.
A type of fat produced by the liver. It’s also found in some foods. Keeping your cholesterol levels under control can lower your risk of heart disease.
An early morning rise in blood sugar, usually between the hours of 4 a.m. to 8 a.m.
The emotional overwhelm and exhaustion that is caused by dealing with the constant management of type 2 diabetes.
A life threatening complication caused by the buildup of ketones in the body. Early symptoms of DKA include high blood glucose, extreme thirst, frequent urination, and high levels of ketones in the urine. More serious symptoms can appear such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, feeling tired all the time, fruity odor on breath, and difficulty breathing.
A specialist who treats people with endocrine problems such as thyroid disease and diabetes.
Typically administered at mealtimes, fast-acting insulin begins to work within 15 minutes, peaks in 1 to 2 hours, and usually lasts for 2 to 4 hours.
Fat is a macronutrient that plays an important part in the body. Eating the right amounts of the right types of fat helps reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers.
The reading when checking your blood sugar after not eating for 8 to 12 hours, usually in the morning.
A type of carbohydrate that’s not digestible by the body. Fiber is found in vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, and nuts. Adults should aim to consume around 25 to 35 grams of fiber daily.
Caused by neuropathy, this condition affects the stomach. Food is slower to digest, causing nausea, bloating, and vomiting. This can make managing blood sugar more difficult.
A type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy.
A hormone produced naturally by the pancreas that raises blood glucose. An injectable form of glucagon can be used to treat severely low levels of blood sugar.
An at-home device you can use to check your blood sugar.
Glucose chewable tablets are used to treat low blood sugar. They are a quick-acting form of glucose and can be purchased at all pharmacies and most grocery stores.
Also known as high blood sugar.
Also known as low blood sugar.
A hormone created inside the pancreas that’s released by beta cells to help the body use or store the blood glucose it gets from food.
A condition where the body doesn’t respond to or use the insulin it makes properly.
A chemical that is produced when there isn’t enough insulin in the blood, so the body starts using fat as fuel. (Also see DKA.)
A condition where type 1 diabetes develops in adults.
This type of insulin reaches the bloodstream several hours after injection and can last up to 24 hours.
These are the nutrients the body needs in larger amounts: protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
An oral medication used to treat type 2 diabetes.
This is kidney damage that’s often caused by hyperglycemia and high blood pressure. When the kidneys are damaged, they can’t effectively filter waste from the bloodstream.
While not officially recognized, the term is used by those who are carb-counting and following diets like keto or low carb. The amount of net carbs in a food is calculated by taking the total carbohydrate amount and subtracting the amount of fiber and sugar alcohols. While it has gained popularity, using total carbs may be more beneficial in managing blood glucose.
Nerve damage caused by diabetes.
An eye specialist. People living with diabetes should see an ophthalmologist once a year.
PCOS often goes hand-in-hand with insulin resistance and is one of the most common causes of fertility issues. Women with PCOS can make insulin, but their bodies have a hard time using it effectively, therefore increasing their risk of type 2 diabetes.
A type of nerve damage that affects the extremities and causes tingling, numbness, and pain in the hands, legs, and feet.
Your blood sugar levels 2 to 3 hours after a meal. People who are pregnant can check 1 hour after eating.
A diagnosis that’s given when people have blood glucose levels just below the levels that indicate type 2 diabetes.
One of the three main macronutrients. Protein helps with cell structure and muscle composition and is needed to produce hormones such as insulin.
An eye disease that is caused by damage to the blood vessels in the retina. It can result in loss of vision.
Any unintended action or reaction to a drug.
Sugar alcohols include erythritol, hydrogenated starch hydrolysates, isomalt, lactitol, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, and xylitol. They have a smaller effect on blood glucose than other carbohydrates.
Alternatives to sugar such as Stevia, Sweet’N Low, and Splenda. They have little to no impact on blood glucose levels.
The amount of time spent in the target glucose range (measured by a CGM).
Found on a nutrition label, the total carbohydrate count includes sugar, starch, and fiber.
Fat that’s stored in the blood. High triglycerides can be linked to uncontrolled diabetes.
An autoimmune disease where the body attacks its own beta cells, leading to a complete lack of insulin production by the body.
A disease where high blood sugar is caused by the body’s inability to produce enough insulin or the inability to use the insulin it produces effectively.
Abbreviation for “way of eating.”
Medically reviewed on November 22, 2022
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