ACE inhibitors - Medications commonly prescribed to treat high blood pressure; this class of drugs also slows the progression of kidney disease in people with diabetes.

adrenergic symptoms - Symptoms, including sweating and heart palpitations, that occur when low blood glucose levels trigger the release of the hormone epinephrine into the blood.

alpha-glucosidase inhibitors - Oral diabetes drugs that inhibit intestinal enzymes that digest complex carbohydrates and sucrose, delaying the absorption of carbohydrates into the blood. Examples are acarbose (Precose) and miglitol (Glyset).

antioxidants - Substances that help the body neutralize free radicals, which can cause cell damage. Naturally occurring antioxidants include beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, and selenium.

atherosclerosis - An accumulation of deposits of fat and fibrous tissue, called plaques, within the walls of arteries that can narrow these blood vessels and reduce blood flow.

autonomic neuropathy - Damage to nerves that control involuntary actions in the body, such as digestion, heart rate, and blood pressure.


biguanides - Oral diabetes drugs that decrease glucose production by the liver and increase glucose uptake by cells. Metformin (Glucophage, Glucophage XR, Glumetza) is the only available biguanide.


cardiovascular disease - Disease affecting the arteries that supply blood to the heart and other organs. Coronary heart disease, stroke, and peripheral arterial disease are the most common types of cardiovascular disease.

cataract - A cloudiness (opacification) of the lens of the eye that can lead to visual impairment.

coronary heart disease (CHD) - A narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to the heart. Caused by atherosclerosis, CHD can reduce or completely block blood flow to the heart.


diabetic foot ulcer - An open sore on the foot that occurs in people with diabetes who have damage to nerves and/or have poor blood flow to the feet.

diabetic ketoacidosis - An acute complication of diabetes (usually type 1) that results from a nearly complete lack of insulin. The body is forced to use fatty acids instead of glucose as a major source of energy. The resulting breakdown of fatty acids to ketone bodies raises the acidity of the blood to dangerous levels. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, heavy breathing, dry or flushed skin, and fruity breath.

diuretics - Drugs that increase urine production by enhancing loss of sodium through the kidneys. Diuretics are used to eliminate excess fluid from the body and to treat high blood pressure.

D-phenylalanine derivatives - Oral diabetes drugs that stimulate rapid insulin secretion to reduce the rise in blood glucose that occurs soon after eating. The only such drug available is nateglinide (Starlix).


external insulin pump - A pump, usually worn on a belt, that delivers a continuous flow of insulin (plus additional amounts before meals) through a needle inserted under the skin of the abdomen or thigh.


fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test - Measures blood glucose levels after an overnight fast. Diabetes is diagnosed if blood glucose is above 125 mg/dL on at least two tests.

free radicals - Chemical compounds that can damage cells and oxidize low-density lipoproteins, making them more likely to be deposited in the walls of arteries.


gestational diabetes - A type of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. About 2–5% of pregnant women develop the condition, which goes away after childbirth. It signals a high risk of type 2 diabetes later in life.

glaucoma - An eye disease characterized by damage to the optic nerve. Increased pressure within the eyeball is a risk factor for developing glaucoma.

glucagon - A hormone that raises blood glucose levels by signaling the liver to convert amino acids and glycogen to glucose, which is then released into the bloodstream. Glucagon may be given by injection to raise blood glucose levels when severe hypoglycemia occurs.

glucose - A simple sugar that circulates in the blood and provides energy to the body. Excess glucose is converted to glycogen or triglycerides.

glucose transporters - Proteins that carry glucose from the outside of a cell to the inside.

glycogen - A complex carbohydrate that is stored in the liver and muscles until it is needed for energy.


hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) test - A test that measures the amount of glucose attached to hemoglobin. The test is routinely used to assess blood glucose control over the previous two to three months.

high-density lipoprotein (HDL) - A lipid-carrying protein that protects against atherosclerosis by removing cholesterol deposited in artery walls.

hyperglycemia - High blood glucose levels.

hyperosmolar nonketotic state - A medical emergency characterized by extremely high blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes. It is usually caused by the physical stress of an injury or major illness. Symptoms include dry or parched mouth, nausea, vomiting, rapid and shallow breathing, and warm, dry skin.

hypoglycemia - Low blood glucose levels that can cause symptoms such as shaking and sweating and may progress to confusion, sleepiness, or even coma. Can be reversed by eating a fast-acting carbohydrate or, if necessary, by injecting glucagon.

Publication Review By: Written by: Christopher D. Saudek, M.D.; Simeon Margolis, M.D., Ph.D.

Published: 22 Apr 2009

Last Modified: 11 Sep 2015