JDF Glossary of Frequently Used Diabetes Terms



ALBUMINURIA
Large amounts of a protein called albumin in the urine which may indicate kidney disease. Long-time diabetes tends to damage the kidneys and is suspected when higher than normal levels of this protein is found.

ANTIBODY
A protein in the body made by the immune system to protect or fight against foreign substances like bacteria or germs. When certain antibodies are found, it means that a particular germ has been or is present. In Type I diabetes, the cells that produce insulin are incorrectly seen as "foreign invaders" so the body produces antibodies to begin fighting off the foreigners. When levels of specific antibodies are found during a blood test, this may indicate that the body is trying to fight off the insulin cells. This is how diabetes may be predicted.

BETA CELL
Cells found in the pancreas that produce insulin. These cells are found in tissue called "islets of Langerhans." Islet tissue contains beta cells (sometimes written as b-cell), alpha cells and delta cells. Alpha cells produce glucagon and release it in the bloodstream when the body needs to put more sugar into the blood. Glucagon has also been made into a medicine that can be injected when severe low blood sugar reactions occur. Delta cells (also found in islet tissue) produce a hormone called somostatin which controls how beta cells make and release insulin, and how glucagon is made and released from the alpha cells.

BLOOD GLUCOSE (SUGAR)
Sugar that the body makes from three food elements: proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Glucose is the major source of energy for all cells and is carried in the bloodstream.

BOLUS DOSE
An extra boost of short-acting insulin to cover an expected rise in blood sugar, usually administered one-half hour before a meal.

C-PEPTIDE
A hormone automatically released by the pancreas along with insulin. A test of levels of c-peptide will show how much insulin is being made.

COXSACKIE B-4 VIRUS
A virus that has been shown in laboratory tests to damage beta cells. It is thought that this virus may be one of the causes of Type I diabetes in genetically susceptible people.

CREATININE
A chemical in the blood that is passed out of the body in the urine. The amount of this chemical in blood or urine shows whether or not the kidneys are functioning properly. This is called a "creatinine clearance test."

GENETIC SUSCEPTIBILITY
Genes are passed on from both parents to a child. Traits such as eye color, height etc. are inherited. Genes tell cells in the body what to do. If the genes for diabetes are present, it is thought that they may be carried and remain dormant or, if triggered by an outside influence (such as a virus), may be turned on for the diabetic process to start. It is not yet known how many and what all of the "triggers" may be.

HEMOGLOBIN A1C (GLUCOSYLATED HEMOGLOBIN)
A substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen to the tissues in the body. Sugar attaches to hemoglobin cells which have a life-span in the body of about four to six months. When the amount of attached sugar is measured, an average blood sugar level for a two to three month period may be found. Despite moderate daily fluctuation, this average "A1C" measurement is a better overall measure of control. An A1C of 6.5 to eight is thought to be a very good average.

HLA ANTIGENS
Proteins that are found on the outer part of a cell that normally help the body fight off illness. It is thought that a certain type of HLA antigen may be misrecognized and actually cause the immune system to attack the proteins surrounding beta cells.

HYPERGLYCEMIA
High blood glucose (sugar). When there is not enough insulin in the body to turn glucose into energy.

HYPOGLYCEMIA
Low blood glucose (sugar). When glucose levels are too low. This happens when too much insulin is in the body (hyperinsulinemia, also known as an "insulin reaction"), or when not enough food is eaten or when there is too much exercise and not enough food.

IDDM
Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus. Sometimes known as juvenile or juvenile onset and also known as Type I diabetes. The cells in the pancreas that produce insulin (beta cells) have been destroyed and no longer produce insulin. It usually starts in childhood, but can begin in late adolescence or early- to mid-adulthood. Insulin must be injected to help the body use sugars produced by many types of food that is eaten. Insulin cannot be taken orally in pill or liquid form because acid in the stomach during digestion destroys most of it, leaving too little or no insulin for the body to use.

INSULIN RECEPTORS
Areas on the outer part of a cell that joins with insulin in the blood like a "lock and key." When this happens, the cell can then use the sugar in the bloodstream efficiently for energy. If receptors are damaged or not working properly, this can effect the efficiency of insulin much like a faulty key that opens a lock, but with much difficulty. This can cause what is known as "insulin resistance."

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