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Diabetes Definitions and Explanations

Often used words regarding diabetes.

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FOOT CARE: Taking special steps to avoid foot problems such as sores, cuts, bunions, and calluses. Good care includes daily examination of the feet, toes, and toenails and choosing shoes and socks or stockings that fit well. People with diabetes have to take special care of their feet because nerve damage and reduced blood flow sometimes mean they will have less feeling in their feet than normal. They may not notice cuts and other problems as soon as they should.

METABOLISM: The term for the way cells chemically change food so that it can be used to keep the body alive. It is a two-part process. One part is called catabolism-when the body uses food for energy. The other is called anabolism-when the body uses food to build or mend cells. Insulin is necessary for the metabolism of food.

PERIPHERAL NEUROPATHY: Nerve damage, usually affecting the feet and legs; causing pain, numbness, or a tingling feeling. Also called somatic neuropathy or distal sensory polyneuropathy.

RISK FACTOR: Anything that raises the chance that a person will get a disease. With non-insulin-dependent diabetes, people have a greater risk of getting the disease if they weigh a lot more (20 percent or more) than they should.

DELTA CELL: A type of cell in the pancreas in areas called the islets of Langerhans. Delta cells make somatostatin, a hormone that is believed to control how the beta cells make and release insulin and how the alpha cells make and release glucagon.

TOLBUTAMIDE: A pill taken to lower the level of glucose (sugar) in the blood. Only some people with noninsulin-dependent diabetes take these pills.

MICROVASCULAR DISEASE: Disease of the smallest blood vessels that sometimes occurs when a person has had diabetes for a long time. The walls of the vessels become abnormally thick but weak, and therefore they bleed, leak protein, and slow the flow of blood through the body. Then some cells, for example, the ones in the center of the eye, may not get enough blood and may be damaged.

NERVE CONDUCTION STUDIES: Tests to determine nerve function; can detect early neuropathy.

HYPOGLYCEMIA: Too low a level of glucose (sugar) in the blood. This occurs when a person with diabetes has injected too much insulin, eaten too little food, or has exercised without extra food. A person with hypoglycemia may feel nervous, shaky, weak, or sweaty, and have a headache, blurred vision, and hunger. Taking small amounts of sugar, sweet juice, or food with sugar will usually help the person feel better within 10-15 minutes.

ENZYMES: A special type of protein. Enzymes help the body's chemistry work better and more quickly. Each enzyme usually has its own chemical job to do such as helping to change starch into glucose (sugar).

BLOOD GLUCOSE: The main sugar that the body makes from the three elements of food-proteins, fats, and carbohydrates-but mostly from carbohydrates. Glucose is the major source of energy for living cells and is carried to each cell through the bloodstream. However, the cells cannot use glucose without the help of insulin.

C.D.E. (CERTIFIED DIABETES EDUCATOR): A health care professional who is qualified by the American Association of Diabetes Educators to teach people with diabetes how to manage their condition. The health care team for diabetes should include a diabetes educator, preferably a C.D.E.

GALACTOSE: A type of sugar found in milk products and sugar beets. It is also made by the body. It is considered a nutritive sweetener because it has calories.

CONTROLLED DISEASE: Taking care of oneself so that a disease has less of an effect on the body. People with diabetes can control the disease by staying on their diets, by exercising, by taking medicine if it is needed, and by monitoring their blood glucose. This care will help keep the glucose (sugar) level in the blood from becoming either too high or too low.

HEREDITY: The passing of a trait such as color of the eyes from parent to child. A person inherits these traits through the genes.

HUMAN INSULIN: Man-made insulins that are similar to insulin produced by your own body. Human insulin has been available since 1982.

KETOSIS: A condition of having ketone bodies build up in body tissues and fluids. The signs of ketosis are nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain. Ketosis can lead to ketoacidosis.

SECONDARY DIABETES: When a person gets diabetes because of another disease or because of taking certain drugs or chemicals.

FUNDUSCOPY: A test to look at the back area of the eye to see if there is any damage to the vessels that bring blood to the retina. The doctor uses a device called an ophthalmoscope to check the eye.

SORBITOL: A sugar alcohol the body uses slowly. It is a sweetener used in diet foods. It is called a nutritive sweetener because it has four calories in every gram, just like table sugar and starch. Sorbitol is also produced by the body. Too much sorbitol in cells can cause damage. Diabetic retinopathy and neuropathy may be related to too much sorbitol in the cells of the eyes and nerves.

DESENSITIZATION: A method to reduce or stop a response such as an allergic reaction to something. For instance, if a person with diabetes has a bad reaction to taking a full dose of beef insulin, the doctor gives the person a very small amount of the insulin at first. Over a period of time, larger doses are given until the person is taking the full dose. This is one way to help the body get used to the full dose and to avoid having the allergic reaction.

GASTROPARESIS: A form of nerve damage that affects the stomach. Food is not digested properly and does not move through the stomach in a normal way, resulting in vomiting, nausea, or bloating and interfering with diabetes management.

MATURITY-ONSET DIABETES: Former term for noninsulin-dependent or type II diabetes.

RENAL THRESHOLD: When the blood is holding so much of a substance such as glucose (sugar) that the kidneys allow the excess to spill into the urine. This is also called kidney threshold, spilling point, and leak point.

TRAUMA: A wound, hurt, or injury to the body. Trauma can also be mental such as when a person feels great stress.

DEXTROSE: A simple sugar found in the blood. It is the body's main source of energy. Also called glucose.

METABOLISM: The term for the way cells chemically change food so that it can be used to keep the body alive. It is a two-part process. One part is called catabolism-when the body uses food for energy. The other is called anabolism-when the body uses food to build or mend cells. Insulin is necessary for the metabolism of food.

PERIPHERAL NEUROPATHY: Nerve damage, usually affecting the feet and legs; causing pain, numbness, or a tingling feeling. Also called somatic neuropathy or distal sensory polyneuropathy.

RECEPTORS: Areas on the outer part of a cell that allow the cell to join or bind with insulin that is in the blood.

PEAK ACTION: The time period when the effect of something is as strong as it can be such as when insulin in having the most effect on lowering the glucose (sugar) in the blood.

GLOMERULI: Network of tiny blood vessels in the kidneys where the blood is filtered and waste products are removed.

TRANSCUTANEOUS ELECTRONIC NERVE STIMULATION (TENS): A treatment for painful neuropathy.

HEREDITY: The passing of a trait such as color of the eyes from parent to child. A person inherits these traits through the genes.

LIMITED JOINT MOBILITY: A form of arthritis involving the hand; it causes the fingers to curve inward and the skin on the palm to tighten and thicken. This condition mainly affects people with IDDM.

JET INJECTOR: A device that uses high pressure to propel insulin through the skin and into the body.

GESTATIONAL DIABETES MELLITUS (GDM): A type of diabetes mellitus that can occur when a woman is pregnant. In the second half of the pregnancy, the woman may have glucose (sugar) in the blood at a higher than normal level. However, when the pregnancy ends, the blood glucose levels return to normal in about 95 percent of all cases.

DELTA CELL: A type of cell in the pancreas in areas called the islets of Langerhans. Delta cells make somatostatin, a hormone that is believed to control how the beta cells make and release insulin and how the alpha cells make and release glucagon.

METABOLISM: The term for the way cells chemically change food so that it can be used to keep the body alive. It is a two-part process. One part is called catabolism-when the body uses food for energy. The other is called anabolism-when the body uses food to build or mend cells. Insulin is necessary for the metabolism of food.

SHOCK: A severe condition that disturbs the body. A person with diabetes can go into shock when the level of blood glucose (sugar) drops suddenly.

UNSTABLE DIABETES: A type of diabetes when a person's blood glucose (sugar) level often swings quickly from high to low and from low to high. Also called brittle diabetes or labile diabetes.

ENZYMES: A special type of protein. Enzymes help the body's chemistry work better and more quickly. Each enzyme usually has its own chemical job to do such as helping to change starch into glucose (sugar).

NEPHROPATHY: Disease of the kidneys caused by damage to the small blood vessels or to the units in the kidneys that clean the blood. People who have had diabetes for a long time may have kidney damage.

VITRECTOMY: Removing the gel from the center of the eyeball because it has blood and scar tissue in it that blocks sight. An eye surgeon replaces the clouded gel with a clear fluid.

XYLITOL: A sweetener found in plants and used as a substitute for sugar; it is called a nutritive sweetener because it provides calories, just like sugar.

RISK FACTOR: Anything that raises the chance that a person will get a disease. With noninsulin-dependent diabetes, people have a greater risk of getting the disease if they weigh a lot more (20 percent or more) than they should.

JET INJECTOR: A device that uses high pressure to propel insulin through the skin and into the body.

NECROBIOSIS LIPOIDICA DIABETICORUM: A skin condition usually on the lower part of the legs. The lesions can be small or extend over a large area. They are usually raised, yellow, and waxy in appearance and often have a purple border. Young women are most often affected. This condition occurs in people with diabetes, or it may be a sign of diabetes. It also occurs in people who do not have diabetes.

RENAL: A term that means having something to do with the kidneys.

VITRECTOMY: Removing the gel from the center of the eyeball because it has blood and scar tissue in it that blocks sight. An eye surgeon replaces the clouded gel with a clear fluid.

HOMEOSTATIS: When the body is working as it should because all of its systems are in balance.

PEAK ACTION: The time period when the effect of something is as strong as it can be such as when insulin in having the most effect on lowering the glucose (sugar) in the blood.

TOLAZAMIDE: A pill taken to lower the level of glucose (sugar) in the blood. Only some people with noninsulin-dependent diabetes take these pills. See also: Oral hypoglycemic agents.

LACTIC ACIDOSIS: The buildup of lactic acid in the body. The cells make lactic acid when they use glucose (sugar) for energy. If too much lactic acid stays in the body, the balance tips and the person begins to feel ill. The signs of lactic acidosis are deep and rapid breathing, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Lactic acidosis may be caused by diabetic ketoacidosis or liver or kidney disease.

HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE: When the blood flows through the vessels at a greater than normal force. High blood pressure strains the heart; harms the arteries; and increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and kidney problems.

FIBER: A substance found in foods that come from plants. Fiber helps in the digestive process and is thought to lower cholesterol and help control blood glucose (sugar).The two types of fiber in food are soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber, found in beans, fruits, and oat products, dissolves in water and is thought to help lower blood fats and blood glucose (sugar). Insoluble fiber, found in whole-grain products and vegetables, passes directly through the digestive system, helping to rid the body of waste products.

DEXTROSE: A simple sugar found in the blood. It is the body's main source of energy.

KIDNEYS: Two organs in the lower back that clean waste and poisons from the blood. The kidneys are shaped like two large beans, and they act as the body's filter. They also control the level of some chemicals in the blood such as hydrogen, sodium, potassium, and phosphate.

RENAL THRESHOLD: When the blood is holding so much of a substance such as glucose (sugar) that the kidneys allow the excess to spill into the urine. This is also called kidney threshold, spilling point, and leak point.

TRIGLYCERIDE: A type of blood fat. The body needs insulin to remove this type of fat from the blood. When diabetes is under control and a person's weight is what it should be, the level of triglycerides in the blood is usually about what it should be.

HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE: When the blood flows through the vessels at a greater than normal force. High blood pressure strains the heart; harms the arteries; and increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and kidney problems.

ENDOGENOUS: Grown or made inside the body. Insulin made by a person's own pancreas is endogenous insulin. Insulin that is made from beef or pork pancreas or derived from bacteria is exogenous because it comes from outside the body and must be injected.

LIPODYSTROPHY: Lumps or small dents in the skin that form when a person keeps injecting the needle in the same spot. Lipodystrophies are harmless. People who want to avoid them can do so by changing (rotating) the places where they inject their insulin. Using purified insulins may also help.

RISK FACTOR: Anything that raises the chance that a person will get a disease. With non-insulin-dependent diabetes, people have a greater risk of getting the disease if they weigh a lot more (20 percent or more) than they should.

NONKETOTIC COMA: A type of coma caused by a lack of insulin. A nonketotic crisis means: (1) very high levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood; (2) absence of ketoacidosis; (3) great loss of body fluid; and (4) a sleepy, confused, or comatose state. Nonketotic coma often results from some other problem such as a severe infection or kidney failure.

PANCREATITIS: Inflammation (pain, tenderness) of the pancreas; it can make the pancreas stop working. It is caused by drinking too much alcohol, by disease in the gallbladder, or by a virus.

KIDNEY DISEASE: Any one of several chronic conditions that are caused by damage to the cells of the kidney. People who have had diabetes for a long time may have kidney damage. Also called nephropathy.

GLAND: A group of special cells that make substances so that other parts of the body can work. For example, the pancreas is a gland that releases insulin so that other body cells can use glucose (sugar) for energy.

TOLBUTAMIDE: A pill taken to lower the level of glucose (sugar) in the blood. Only some people with non-insulin-dependent diabetes take these pills.



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