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Nutrition Obesity Research Center (NORC)
University of Washington
Glossary of Terms Related to Diabetes Research
We expect that most of the visitors to our DRC website are researchers, physicians, nurses, and other health care providers, who are knowledgeable about diabetes terminology. We present this short glossary mainly for the convenience of readers who may be unfamiliar with the terminology used in diabetes research and treatment. This glossary is not intended to be comprehensive. Visitors who desire more basic information about diabetes are referred to the many resources available on the Internet. The following are particularly oriented towards the general public:
Some Common Diabetes Terms
Blood glucose level: The amount of glucose in a given amount of blood. It is noted in milligrams in a deciliter, or mg/dL.
Blood glucose: The main sugar found in the blood and the body's main source of energy. Also called blood sugar.
Diabetes: A group of diseases characterized by high levels of blood glucose resulting from defects in insulin production, insulin action, or both.
Fasting blood glucose test: A check of a person's blood glucose level after the person has not eaten for 8 to 12 hours (usually overnight). This test is used to diagnose pre-diabetes and diabetes.
Gestational diabetes: A form of Type 2 diabetes that commonly develops in women during pregnancy.
Glucagon: A hormone produced by the alpha cells in the pancreatic islets. It raises blood glucose.
Hyperglycemia: The condition of having blood glucose levels higher than normal.
Hypoglycemia: A condition that occurs when one's blood glucose is lower than normal.
Insulin: A hormone that lowers blood glucose and helps the body use glucose for energy. The beta cells of the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas make insulin.
Islets of Langerhans: Groups of cells located in the pancreas that make glucagon and insulin.
Oral glucose tolerance test: A test to diagnose pre-diabetes and diabetes. After an overnight fast, a blood sample is taken, then the patient drinks a high-glucose beverage. Blood samples are taken at intervals for 2 to 3 hours. Test results are compared with a standard and show how the body uses glucose over time.
Pre-diabetes: A condition that occurs when a person's blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. This condition is also called "impaired glucose tolerance" or "glucose intolerance".
Type 1 diabetes: Previously called insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) or juvenile-onset diabetes, Type 1 diabetes develops when the body's immune system destroys pancreatic beta cells, the only cells in the body that make the hormone insulin that regulates blood glucose.
Type 2 diabetes: Previously called non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) or adult-onset diabetes, Type 2 diabetes may account for about 90% to 95% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. It usually begins as insulin resistance, a disorder in which the cells do not use insulin properly. As the need for insulin rises, the pancreas gradually loses its ability to produce insulin and diabetes results.