Understanding common terms can help you as you manage your diabetes.


A1C: A test which measures your average blood sugar over the past 2 to 3 months.


Basal insulin analog: A long-acting insulin treatment taken at night or in the morning (or sometimes both) to control your insulin between meals and while you sleep.

Basal insulin rate: A steady level of insulin released by the body throughout the day and night.

Bolus insulin analog: A fast-acting insulin treatment taken before meals, to control insulin spikes when you eat.

Bolus insulin release: Short bursts of insulin released by the body that cover the rise in blood sugar that occurs after meals or snacks.


Cholesterol: A fat-like substance that is found in the bloodstream and body tissue. Cholesterol is used by the body to make hormones and build cell walls. However, too much cholesterol can cause problems. See also, Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.


Diabetes: A condition where the body makes little or no insulin, or has trouble using the insulin it makes. Diabetes has no cure, but can be controlled with medical care and a healthy lifestyle.

Diabetes care team: A group of health care providers who help manage treatment for a person with diabetes. Examples of team members include primary care physicians, endocrinologists, cardiologists, ophthalmologists, and nutritionists.


Endocrinologist: A health care provider who treats people who have endocrine gland problems such as diabetes.


Fasting plasma glucose (FPG): Your blood sugar when you have been “fasting” (not eating) for at least 8 hours. You may be checking this in the morning.


Glucose: Also known as blood sugar, glucose is used by the body for fuel. Glucose is produced when the digestive system breaks down food.

Glucose tablets: Tablets made of sugar, used for treating low blood sugar.


High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol: A fat found in the blood that takes extra cholesterol from the blood to the liver for removal. Sometimes called "good" cholesterol.

Hormone: A molecule made by the body to help it work in different ways. For example, insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas to help the body use sugar as energy.

Hyperglycemia: High blood sugar. Symptoms may include having to urinate often and being very thirsty.

Hypoglycemia: Low blood sugar. Symptoms may include feeling anxious or confused, weak or tired, and shaking or feeling dizzy.


Insulin: A hormone produced in the pancreas, which helps cells to absorb glucose from the blood.

Insulin analog: A man-made type of insulin.


Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol: A fat found in the blood that takes cholesterol around the body to where it is needed for cell repair and also deposits it on the inside of artery walls. Sometimes called "bad" cholesterol.


Pancreas: An organ in the body that produces a few different hormones including insulin, which enables the body to use sugar for energy.

Pharmacist: A trained professional who knows about the chemistry of medicines you take for your diabetes and other conditions. Your pharmacist can tell you how your medicines may interact with one another.

Primary care provider (PCP): The health care provider who you see for general checkups and when you get sick. Your PCP may be a doctor or nurse practitioner (a registered nurse who has a bachelor’s degree in nursing).

Postprandial plasma glucose (PPG): Your after-meal blood sugar number, tested about 1 to 2 hours after you eat. This measures the blood sugar spikes that happen after you eat.


Sharps container: A container to store used needles. In the United States, standard sharps containers are red and made of hard plastic.

Specialist: A health care professional with lots of knowledge in a specific area. For example, dieticians and nutritionists can teach you about managing food when you have diabetes. An ophthalmologist diagnoses eye diseases and disorders, while a podiatrist examines and treats feet.