When you're first diagnosed with diabetes, it may seem that you are surrounded by medical experts, all speaking double-dutch. Here are some simple explanations of certain terms used in the treatment of diabetes.
Acetone: Substance found in the urine when the body breaks down dietary or body fat for fuel.
Albumin- A protein which is naturally present in the body. If found in the urine, it can indicate kidney damage or bladder infections.
Alpha Cells: Cells in the pancreas which produce the hormone glucagon.
Arteriosclerosis: "Hardening of the arteries" caused by a build-up of fibrous, fatty deposits on the walls of blood vessels. It can increase blood pressure and the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Some degree of this process is a normal part of the aging process, but it can be exacerbated by diabetes.
Autonomic Neuropathy: Damage to the nerves which regulate various physical functions, including sexual potency, blood pressure, digestion and bladder function problems.
Beta Cells: Special cells in the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas which secrete insulin.
Biguanides: Tablets which lower blood glucose levels by reducing the rate at which the liver produces glucose, at the same time increasing the rate at which the muscle cells take it up (absorb it).
Carbohydrate: A class of starchy, sugary foods mainly derived from plant and vegetable matter — such as rice, pasta, potatoes, pulses etc. These are readily broken down to glucose (sugar) in the gut
Fructosamine: A type of blood sugar test which allows your doctor to assess your blood sugar levels, and your diabetes management, over the past two or three weeks.
Gangrene: The destruction of bodily tissues due to inadequate blood supply. It can occur in people with diabetes, particularly in the feet, as a result of blood vessel damage.
Gestational Diabetes: A form of the disease which strikes for the first time during pregnancy. It disappears after the birth, but evidence suggests that women with gestational diabetes are at greater risk of diabetes later in life.
Glucagon: Hormone, produced by alpha cells in the pancreas, which stimulate the liver to release glycogen into the blood.
Glucose: Sugar found in the blood and derived from eating carbohydrates.
Glycogen: The form in which carbohydrates or starches are stored in the liver, to be released when required into the blood to meet the body's energy demands.
Glucosuria: Sugar in the urine.
Glycosylated Haemoglobin Test A blood test which indicates how blood glucose levels have been maintained over the past three months. Hyperglycaemia: Abnormally high blood glucose levels. Hypoglycaemia: Abnormally low blood glucose levels.
Insulin: A hormone, produced within the beta cells of the pancreas, which is responsible for regulating blood sugar levels. Too much insulin can produce hypoglycemia, too little will result in hyperglycemia.
Ketones: Toxic acids which are produced when the body starts burning its own fat or dietary fat to obtain energy.
Ketoacidosis: A serious condition when the body is burning up fat supplies due to insufficient insulin, producing ketones. People with diabetes in this condition can display symptoms such as vomiting, drowsiness and a strong smell acetone on the breath.
Ketonuria: The presence of ketones in the urine. They may be detected with dipsticks.
Laser Treatment: A treatment for damaged blood vessels in the retina (m the eye), in which a beam of light is used to coagulate the vessels.
Microalbuminuria Test: A urine test which detects very early signs of kidney damage.
Microaneurysms: Tiny areas of weakness in the blood vessels of the back of the eye. An early warning sign of damage to the retina, which, if untreated, may result in blindness.
Millimole: Unit used to measurement of levels of glucose and other substances in the blood, generally expressed as millimoles per litre (mmol/L).
Neuropathy:. Nerve damage which can result from poorly controlled diabetes.
Pancreas: A gland, lying behind and below the stomach, which secretes digestive juices and the hormones insulin and glucagon.
Peripheral Neuropathy: Damage of the nerves supplying the muscles and skin. This can result in weakness and reduced feeling, particularly in the legs and feet
Pruritis Vulvae: Itching of the vulva (the external female genital a caused by infection resulting from high blood glucose levels. Can t early warning sign of diabetes in older women.
Polyuria: Excessive urination, a symptom of diabetes.
Proteinuria: The presence of protein or albumin in the urine.
Renal Threshold: The level at which the kidneys can no longer de with high levels of blood glucose, and it "spills over" into the urine. renal threshold is usually reached when the blood sugar level hits around 10 mmol/L, but individual levels can vary widely.
Retinopathy: Damage to the blood vessels in the retina (the light sensitive layer at the back of the eye), caused by poorly controlled diabetes.
Sorbitol: A sweetener which has no effect on the blood sugar lever is used in some "sugar free" foods. However, it has just as many kilojoules as sugar, so it's not recommended for people with diabetes trying to lose weight.
Sucrose: Sugar derived from sugar cane or sugar beet.
Sulphonylureas: Tablets which stimulate the pancreas to produce more insulin.
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