If you have been recently diagnosed with diabetes the medical terms used to describe the condition may seem confusing and overwhelming. Below is a list of the most commonly used diabetes words and their meaning. This may help you better understand information enabling you to have more effective conversations with your Health Care Professionals.

Common Diabetes Terminology

Easy Explanation

Auto immune disease

A type of disorder in which the body's immune system destroys body tissue believing it to be a foreign substance.

Basal insulin

Refers to background insulin that is normally produced by the pancreas and it remains available all the times irrespective of whether person eats food or not.

Beta cells

Cells that produce insulin, beta cells are located in pancreas.

Blood glucose

Also known as blood sugar. It is the main type of sugar found in the blood.

Blood glucose level

Amount of glucose in the blood at a particular time. It is measured in two types of units, mmol per litre (mmol/L) and milligram per decilitre (mg/dl). In NZ and Australia, mmol/L is the standard unit used to measure blood glucose level.


Body Mass Index. It is a measure to evaluate body weight relative to person's height. It is commonly used to understand if a person is overweight, underweight or normal weight.

Bolus Insulin

Additional insulin supplied by pancreas when glucose is taken in through food. The amount of carbohydrate in the food determines the quantity of bolus insulin produced by the pancreas.


It is one of the three main nutrients in food; the other two are proteins and fat.

Carb counting

It is a process of planning a meal based on amount of carbohydrates (in grams) in the meal.

Cardiovascular disease

Disease of heart and blood vessels.

Chronic disease or condition

A disease or condition that is persistent and long lasting effects.

Endocrine gland

A group of cells in the body that produces hormones. The islets of pancreas that produce insulin are type of endocrine glands.


One of the simplest forms of sugar.


It is a test to measure person's average blood glucose levels over the past 2 to 3 months.


Higher than normal levels of blood glucose.


Lower than normal levels of blood glucose.


A hormone that helps the body to use glucose for energy.


An organ that makes insulin and other digestive enzymes.


Self-Monitoring of Blood Glucose