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Diabetes Glossary At-a-Glance

By Mary Buescher, RD, CDE

Whether you’ve just been diagnosed with diabetes or have been living with it for years, it is helpful to be versed in some of the most common terms associated with your condition. Our Diabetic Educators have created a glossary that you can refer to at-a-glance, to help familiarize yourself with routine terms used by your care team.

The following words are frequently used to help diagnose, explain and treat diabetes:


A blood test measuring your average blood glucose levels from the last two to three months. This is one test used to diagnose pre-diabetes or diabetes.

Blood glucose level

Also known as blood sugar level, this is the amount of glucose (sugar) in your system at any given time.

Blood glucose monitoring

Monitoring your blood sugar levels on a regular basis to manage diabetes.


A combination of sugar and starch that is broken down into glucose and used by your body for energy.  

Continuous glucose monitor (CGM)

A personal monitoring device that uses wireless technology to monitor your blood sugar levels from a sensor inserted underneath your skin.


Sugar found in your blood that is a main source of energy for your body.

Diabetes mellitus

A condition that occurs when your body is unable to use blood sugar for energy, resulting in hyperglycemia.

Endocrine system

A collection of glands that produce hormones in charge of regulating metabolism, growth and development, sexual function, reproduction, sleep, mood and much more.

Fasting blood glucose

A test that requires an eight to twelve hour fast before checking your blood sugar level. This is one test used to diagnose pre-diabetes or diabetes. It may also be used as a means to monitor your diabetes.


A sugar that is naturally found in fruits and honey.

Gestational diabetes

A type of diabetes that develops in some pregnant women, typically within 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy. This may increase a mother’s chance of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.


A hormone that raises blood glucose and may be used to treat hypoglycemia when used in an injection form.


Also known as blood sugar, glucose is a primary source of energy for the body.


A condition characterized by high blood glucose (sugar) that may present symptoms such as increased thirst, headaches, fatigue and weight loss.


A condition characterized by low blood glucose (sugar) that may present symptoms such as hunger, nervousness, shakiness, light-headedness, perspiration and confusion.


A hormone that regulates the use of glucose for energy. If your body cannot produce enough insulin, your doctor may recommend an insulin pump or injection.

Insulin resistance

A condition in which muscle, fat and liver cells do not use insulin properly to regulate blood glucose levels.  Insulin resistance  increases the chances of developing type 2 diabetes. 


An organ of the endocrine system that produces enzymes and hormones, one of which, is the hormone insulin.  


Also called impaired glucose tolerance or impaired fasting glucose. Pre-diabetes is characterized by insulin resistance and high blood sugar levels that are nearing the diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes. Pre-diabetes can lead to Type 2 diabetes if not treated by diet and lifestyle modifications.

Target range

Your doctor will refer to your target range when referencing your blood glucose levels. When managing diabetes, your target range, according to the American Diabetes Association, should be 70-130m/dL before meals, and one to two hours after a meal it should be below 180mg/dL. The target range can be regulated with diet, exercise, diabetes medications and insulin.

Always be sure to ask your provider if you are unsure of a term and/or instruction at your appointment. For more information on our Diabetes Care and Education department, please visit our Diabetes Education page or schedule an appointment with a Diabetes Educator by calling 630-286-5090.

Topics and Subtopics: Diabetes Care

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