Glossary of Diabetic Terms - A

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

A1C: A a blood test done in a doctor’s office or in a laboratory. It is determined by measuring the percentage of glycated hemoglobin, or HbA1c, in the blood. An A1C shows your average blood sugar level over the past 2 to 3 months and, by extension, how well your blood sugar is being controlled over time. Generally, doctors recommend that you get an A1C test up to 4 times a year. An A1C lower than 6.5 is considered good diabetic management .

Acesulfame-k: An artificial sweetener used in place of sugar. It is not metabolized by the body and therefore does not contribute to calories and has contains no carbohydrates. Therefore, it has no effect on blood sugar levels.

Acetone: A chemical formed in the blood when the body breaks down fat instead of sugar for energy. If acetone forms, it usually means the cells are starved. Commonly, the body's production of acetone is known as "ketosis." It occurs when there is an absolute or relative deficiency in insulin so sugars cannot get into cells for energy. The body then tries to use other energy sources like proteins from muscle and fat from fat cells. Acetone passes through the body into the urine.

Acidosis: Too much acid in the body, usually from the production of ketones like acetone, when cells are starved. For a person with diabetes, the most common type of acidosis is called "ketoacidosis."

Acute: Abrupt onset that is usually severe; happens for a limited period of time.

Adrenal glands: Two endocrine glands that sit on top of the kidneys and make and release stress hormones, such as: epinephrine (adrenaline), which stimulates carbohydrate metabolism; norepinephrine, which raises heart rate and blood pressure; corticosteroid hormones, which control how the body utilizes fat, protein, carbohydrates, and minerals and help reduce inflammation. They also produce sex hormones like testosterone and can produce DHEA and progesterone.

Adult-onset diabetes: A term no longer used. Considered the same as type 2 diabetes, yet the increased epidemic in obesity has lead to an increase in type 2 diabetes in children. Therefore the term is no longer considered valid. "Non insulin dependant diabetes" is also considered an incorrect phrase in describing type 2 diabetes, as patients with this type of diabetes may at some point require insulin.

Adverse effect: Harmful effect.

Alternate Site Testing: The practice of drawing blood from locations other than finger tips. AST is also sometimes referred too as painless testing because while fingers have a high concentration of nerve endings and pricking them can be painful. Alternate sites such as your forearm have fewer nerve endings which means virtually no pain when pricked.

Albuminuria: More than normal amounts of a protein called "albumin" in the urine. Albuminuria may be a sign of kidney disease, a problem that can occur in about 30%-45% of people who have had type 1 diabetes for at least 10 years. In patients with type 2 diabetes, the kidneys may already show signs of small amounts of protein spillage when they are diagnosed -- called "microalbumin." This may be from the result of diabetes or from other diseases seen in conjunction with diabetes like high blood pressure. Protein in the urine increases the risk that a person with diabetes can have end stage kidney disease. It also means that the person is at a particularly high risk for the development of cardiovascular disease.

Alpha cell: A type of cell in an area of the pancreas called the islets of Langerhans. Alpha cells make and release a hormone called "glucagon." Glucagon functions in direct opposition to insulin. In other words, it increases the amount of glucose in the blood by releasing stored sugar from the liver.

Anomaly: Birth defects; deviation from the norm or average.

Antibodies: Proteins that the body produces to protect itself from foreign substances, such as bacteria or viruses.

Antidiabetic agent: A substance that helps a person with diabetes control the level of sugar in their blood so their body functions properly. (See also insulin, oral diabetes medication).

Antigens: Substances that cause an immune response in the body; identifying substances or markers on cells. The body produces antibodies to fight antigens, or harmful substances, and tries to eliminate them.

Artery: A blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to other parts of the body. Arteries are thicker than veins and have stronger, more elastic walls. Arteries sometimes develop plaque within their walls in a process known as "atherosclerosis." These plaques can become fragile and rupture leading to the complications associated with diabetes such as heart attacks and strokes.

Artificial pancreas: A glucose sensor attached to an insulin delivery device. Both are connected together by what is known as a "closed loop system." In other words, it is a system that not only can determine the body glucose level, but takes that information and releases the appropriate amounts of insulin for the particular sugar it just measured. The artificial pancreas can regulate the amount of insulin released, so low sugars would cause the device to decrease insulin delivery. Studies are being conducted to develop a version of this system that can be implanted.

Aspartame: An artificial sweetener used in place of sugar because it has few calories. Also known as "Equal" and "NutraSweet."

Asymptomatic: No symptoms; no clear sign that disease is present.

Atherosclerosis: A disease of the arteries. It is caused by deposits of cholesterol in the walls of arteries. These plaques can build up and cause narrowing of the arteries or they can become fragile and break off, forming blood clots that cause heart attacks and stroke. The arteries that supply blood to the heart can become severely narrowed, decreasing the supply of oxygen-rich blood to the heart, especially during times of increased activity.

Autoimmune disease: A disorder of the body's immune system in which the immune system mistakenly attacks itself. Examples of these diseases include type 1 diabetes, hyperthyroidism caused by Graves' disease, hypothyroidism caused by Hashimoto's disease.

Autonomic neuropathy: Nerve damage to organs of the body that we cannot consciously control. These nerves control our digestive system, blood vessels, urinary system, skin, and sex organs. Autonomic nerves are not under a person's control and function on their own.

FATWORLD is a video game about the politics of nutrition. It explores the relationships between obesity, nutrition, and socioeconomics in the contemporary U.S.

Southwestern Medical Center cardiologists have uncovered how a specific protein’s previously unsuspected role contributes to the deterioration of heart muscle in patients with diabetes. Investigators in the mouse study also have found a way to reverse the damage caused by this protein.