Diabetes Glossary of Terms


Autoimmune is where something goes wrong with the immune defence and the cells of your own body are attacked. This is seen in Type 1 diabetes, as the insulin producing cells of the pancreas are destroyed by a process in the body known as “autoimmunity” in which the body’s cells attack each other, leading to loss of insulin production.


Basal insulin is the insulin that controls blood glucose levels between meals and overnight. It controls glucose in the fasting state.

Beta cells are cells in the islets of your pancreas that produce insulin. Blood glucose level is the amount of glucose in your blood.

Body mass index (BMI) is a measure used to evaluate body weight relative to a person’s height. BMI is used to find out if a person is underweight, normal weight, overweight or obese.

Bolus insulin is the insulin that is released when food is eaten. A bolus is a burst of insulin that is delivered by injection or by the insulin pump to handle a meal or snack with carbohydrates or to correct for a high blood glucose level.


Carbohydrates come from food that we digest. During digestion carbohydrates are broken down into glucose. They are the main source of energy in our diet and include all sugars and starches such as pasta, bread, rice and potatoes.

Carbohydrate counting or carb counting is a method of meal planning for people with diabetes based on counting the number of grams of carbohydrate in food eaten.

Cataract is the clouding of the lens of the eye.

Creatinine is a waste product from protein in the diet and from the muscles of the body. Creatinine is removed from the body by the kidneys; as kidney disease progresses, the level of creatinine in the blood increases.


Dawn phenomenon is the early-morning (3 a.m. to 8 a.m.) rise in blood glucose level as a result of hormones and other processes needed to get the body going. This raise in blood glucose does not have anything to do with food eaten.

Dextrose is pure glucose.

Diabetic ketoacidosis is a dangerous condition caused by blood turning acidic from a high level of ketones being released into your blood. It occurs as a result of high blood sugars and too little insulin.

Diabetes mellitus is a condition in which the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood is too high because the body cannot use it properly.

Diabetes specialist nurses (DSNs) are key to our care plan and are nurses with specialist training in diabetes.

Diabetologists are doctors specialising in diabetes.