I’m lucky in the sense that I’ve had 37 years to get used to Type 1 Diabetes and all the associated terminology that comes with it. I often forget that friends and even family don’t usually know what half of the words associated to Diabetes may mean.
I can’t tell you how often I’ve said something about my Diabetes and had my mother or one of my friends cock an eyebrow or wonder what the hell I’m talking about. With that in mind, I thought it would be a good idea to provide some of the basic terminology that everyone who associates with someone Diabetic should know.
- Basal Rate: This refers to a constant supply of some given medication that is delivered over time. For someone with Diabetes, one’s basal rate refers to the dosage of insulin, which is slowly delivered throughout the day, usually by way of an insulin pump;
- Bolus: Unlike one’s basal rate, a bolus refers to a singular dosage of insulin that is delivered within a fixed period of time, either by manual injection or by way of an insulin pump. For example, before eating a meal, one would “bolus” a specific dose of insulin;
- Blood Glucose: This one should be pretty straightforward, but I’ve been surprised at how many people honestly don’t understand what is meant by blood glucose. This term simply refers to the sugar carried through the blood stream in order to supply the body with energy. Having either too much, or too little sugar in the blood stream is one of the main issues with Diabetes;
- Carbohydrates: Considering all the “nutritional gurus” and fad diets on today’s market, this one comes as a surprise as far as people not understanding what carbs really are. Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of fuel, and includes sugars, starches and fibres. This is why it’s so important for someone with Diabetes to properly calculate their carb intake; because all these components (except fibre) will affect blood sugar;
- Fasting: Although not unique to Diabetes, fasting is often required prior to certain blood collection or medical examinations. It basically means that one abstains from ingesting any food or drink for a prescribed period of time;
- Hemoglobin A1C: Although more complicated than what I’ll explain, A1C refers to the average of one’s blood sugars over a 3-month period. This is a test frequently used to see if a person’s blood sugars are staying within acceptable range. This test has become less of a favoured method, since one’s A1C can be manipulated through extreme highs and lows. Methods of measuring a person’s “time in range”, such as continuous glucose monitoring have become more of an accurate method;
- Hyperglycemia: High blood sugar. That is all;
- Hypoglycemia: Low blood sugar. Bam!
- Insulin: This is a hormone produced by the pancreas, which regulates the level of glucose in the blood stream. In someone with type 1 Diabetes, this hormone is no longer produced, which causes the need for a synthetically created insulin to be injected;
- Interstitial Tissue: This is the tissue that connects your outer flesh with the really bloody stuff underneath. This tissue is important for someone with Diabetes because it is where blood glucose levels are measured using a continuous glucose monitoring system;
- Ketoacidosis: This is one of the more common complications of Diabetes. As I understand it, ketoacidosis happens when there isn’t enough insulin in the system to help the sugar enter the cells. Without sugar as fuel, the body begins using fat stores for energy. This causes certain acids to start spilling into the system, which can be spilled out through one’s urine. It’s very dangerous and usually requires medical attention if your blood glucose level won’t come down or your ketones are unusually high;
- Subcutaneous Tissue: This refers to the layer of fat and connective tissue beneath the skin and is generally where injected insulin NEEDS to end up once injected.
There you have it; some of the more common terms that Diabetics use. Like most illnesses, the best recourse when someone with Diabetes uses a term that you’re unfamiliar with is simply to ask. That’s often more awkward than we care to admit, but speaking for myself, most people with Diabetes are so used to just talking about it that we often forget to explain it. So don’t be afraid to ask. The worst response you’ll get is that we don’t want to talk about it. ☯