Diabetes Dictionary


Adrenal Glands
Glands located at the top of each kidney that secrete important hormones for the function of many organ systems in the body.

Adult Stem Cell
Undifferentiated cell found among differentiated cells in a tissue or organ that can renew itself. The primary role in a living organism is to maintain and repair the tissue in which it is found.

Alpha Cells
Alpha cells are found in the pancreas. They produce a hormone called glucagon, which raises blood glucose levels.

Antibodies / Antibody
A special kind of protein made by the immune system that is released in response to something foreign in the body eg. virus. Antibodies help fight infection.

Pertaining to development of an immune response to one’s own tissue.


Bariatric Surgery
Surgery to reduce the size of the stomach to help morbidly obese lose weight. (Also sSee Lap Banding)

Beta Cells
Cells in the pancreas that make the hormone insulin.

Blood Glucose Level (BGL)
The amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood stream.


A nutrient in food that provides a major source of energy. Usually found in grains, fruits, starchy vegetables and milk based dairy foods. Is broken down to glucose in the blood stream and raises blood glucose levels.

A fatty waxy substance made by the body and also found in some foods. High levels of cholesterol in the blood stream are a risk factor for heart disease.

Coeliac Disease
A condition where there is an intolerance to gluten, a protein found in foods that causes damage to the small intestine.


Dawn Phenomenon
This occurs when BGLs rise in the early hours of the morning due to the natural release of the hormones cortisol and adrenaline.

Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA)
A loss of control of type 1 diabetes with high blood glucose levels and breakdown of fat leading to a build up of acids in the blood with nausea, vomiting and dehydration. Without urgent medical diagnosis, DKA can lead to coma and death.

Double Diabetes
A new expression of diabetes in which hyperglycaemia occurs in children and teenagers with a combination of markers typical of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.


Embryonic Stem Cells
Derived from embryos that develop from eggs that have been fertilised in vitro and then donated for research purposes with informed consent of the donors. They are not derived from eggs fertilised in a woman’s body.

A doctor who specialises in the management of diseases of the glands, including the adrenal, thyroid, pituitary, parathyroid glands, ovaries, testicles and pancreas.

A special protein made in the body that assists with naturally occurring biological functions of the body.

Erectile Dysfunction (Impotence)
The loss of a man’s ability to have an erection. Some men may become impotent after having diabetes for a long time because the nerves or blood vessels have become damaged. Sometimes the problem has nothing to do with diabetes and may be treated with counselling.


One of the three main classes of foods and a source of energy in the body. They serve as energy stores for the body. In food, there are three types of fats: saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated.

A substance found in foods that come from plants. Fibre helps in the digestive process and is thought to lower cholesterol and help control blood glucose (sugar). The two types of fibre in food are soluble and insoluble.

A convulsion or seizure that can be a symptom of severe or untreated hypoglycaemia.


Gastric Banding
Surgery involves a gand, similar to a wristwatch, being surically fastened around the upper portion of the stomach.

The body’s main source of energy.

A hormone made by the pancreas that causes the liver to release glucose from body stores. Manufactured glucagon is injected to raise blood glucose levels in a person with severe hypoglycaemia.

Glycemic Index
A ranking of carbohydrate foods according to their effect on blood glucose levels.

Glycemic Response
The effect of different foods on blood glucose (sugar) levels over a period of time.

Glycemic Load
The predicted effect of a food on blood glucose levels that takes into account glycemic index and total available carbohydrate.

The body’s stores of glucose in the liver and muscle which release glucose (sugar) into the blood when needed by cells. Glycogen is the chief source of stored fuel in the body.


A test to identify the average blood glucose level over the last 2-3 months. Also known as glycosylated haemoglobin, this test measures the amount of glucose that attaches to red blood cells which depends on how much glucose is in the bloodstream. If BGLs have been high over the 2-3 month period, more glucose will attach to the red blood cells and HbA1c will be high. If BGLs are mostly within the recommended range, then HbA1c will be closer to the desired level.

Hormone Hormones are chemicals released by special cells that tell other cells what to do. For instance, insulin is a hormone made by the beta cells in the pancreas. When released, insulin tells other cells to use glucose (sugar) for energy.

Blood glucose levels higher than the desirable range.

Blood glucose levels lower than the desirable range.

Too high a level of fats (lipids) in the blood.


Insulin dependent diabetes mellitus, now known as type 1 diabetes.

Immune System
A system of the body that provides protection from infection.

Impaired fasting glucose (IFG)
Also called pre-diabetes. A condition in which a blood glucose test, taken after an 8- to 12-hour fast, shows a level of glucose higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. Based on a different fasting and oral glucose tolerance test to IGT.

Impaired glucose tolerance (IGT)
IGT, also called pre-diabetes. A condition in which blood glucose levels are higher than normal but are not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes, 2 hours after the start of an oral glucose tolerance test. Based on a different fasting and oral glucose tolerance test to IFG.

The number of new cases of a disease that develops over a period of time among people who don’t have the disease. (see Prevalence)

Inhaled insulin
Taking insulin through a portable device that allows a person to breathe in insulin.

Groups of cells in the pancreas that make hormones that help the body break down and use food. Also called Islets of Langerhans.

Islet Transplantation
Placing the islets from a donor pancreas into a person whose pancreas has stopped producing insulin. Beta cells in the islets make the insulin that the body needs for using blood glucose.

A hormone made by the pancreas that is responsible for controlling blood glucose levels.

Insulin Resistance
The inability of the body to recognise and use insulin as it should.


Juvenile Onset Diabetes
Another name for type 1 diabetes.


Acids in the blood formed when body fat is used instead of glucose to provide energy. High levels of ketones can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis and coma.

A ketone build-up in the body that may lead to diabetic ketoacidosis. Signs are nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain.


Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults (LADA)
Is a form of automimmune (type 1 diabetes) which is diagnosed later in life (after 30 years of age). People with LADA are often mistakenly thought to have type 2 diabetes.

Lap Banding
Surgery to reduce the size of the stomach to help morbidly obese lose weight. (Also see Bariatric Surgery)

Fatty lumps that form when insulin is constantly injected into the same area.

Long Acting Insulin
Insulin that is absorbed slowly into the body after injection. Commonly used in conjunction with short acting insulin in the management of type 1 diabetes in children.


Referring to the large blood vessels of the body.

Metabolic Syndrome
When several conditions occur together, including obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes or pre-diabetes, hypertension and high lipids.

Describes the way cells chemically change food so that it can be used to store or use energy and make proteins, fats, and sugars.

A tablet that lowers blood glucose levels by blocking the release of glucose from the liver. Usually used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes, sometimes used for weight management in children with type 1 diabetes in conjunction with insulin.

Referring to the small blood vessels of the body.

Millimole (mmol)
A unit for measuring the concentration of glucose and other substances in the blood.

Leakage of small amounts of protein into the urine.

Monounsaturated Fat
A healthy fat that may help reduce the risk of heart disease. Found in olive and canola oil, nuts and avocadoes.


National Diabetes Services Scheme – NDSS
The National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS) is an initiative of the Australian Government that is administered by Diabetes Australia.

Damage to the kidneys.

Damage to parts of the nervous system.

Non Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus, now known as type 2 diabetes.


Greater than normal amount of fat in the body; more severe than overweight. A body mass index of 30 or more.

An above-normal body weight. A body mass index of 25 to 29.9.


A gland or organ behind the stomach that produces hormones such as insulin.

Excessive thirst and drinking large amounts of water.

Polyunsaturated Fat
A healthy fat that may help reduce the risk of heart disease. Found in fish, vegetable oils such as sunfl ower oil, nuts and seeds.

Passing large amounts of urine due to excess glucose in the blood stream.

After a meal.

Blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes.

The number of people in a population who have a certain disease or condition. (Also see Incidence)

A nutrient in food that is important for growth, development and repair of tissues. Foods high in protein include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, legumes and dairy foods.


Damage to the small blood vessels at the back of the eye.


Saturated Fat
A type of fat that has been shown to increase the risk of heart disease. Found in animal foods such as butter, full fat dairy foods, and fatty meats, as well as many processed and takeaway foods.

Short Acting Insulin
Insulin that is absorbed quickly into the body after injection. Commonly used in conjunction with long acting insulin in the management of type 1 diabetes in children.

Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer
A technique that combines an enucleated egg (nucleus removed) and the nucleus of a somatic cell to make an embryo. (Also see Therapeutic cloning)

Underneath the skin.


Therapeutic Cloning
Taking an egg from which the nucleus has been removed and replacing that nucleus with DNA from the cell of another organism, using a process known as somatic cell nuclear transfer. This single cell forms an early stage embryo with almost identical DNA to the original organism. (Also see Somatic cell nuclear transfer)

Type 1 diabetes
Also known as insulin dependent diabetes. Occurs when the pancreas stops making insulin. Requires daily insulin injections for survival.

Type 2 diabetes
Also known as non-insulin dependent diabetes. Occurs when there is either insufficient insulin or the insulin produced does not work effectively.