Learning the Language

Like many diseases, T1 diabetes has its own lingo and language. Here is a guide that will help you talk and understand like a real diabetic!

T1 or T1D = Type 1 diabetes

T2 or T2D = Type 2 diabetes

T3 = Type 3, parent/spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend, someone close to a T1 diabetic that helps with daily care, typically knows T1 diabetes as well as someone with the disease

BG = Blood glucose or blood sugar, the amount of sugar in the blood, a non-diabetic is typically 80-100.

Hypo (short for hypoglycemia) or low blood sugar or “low”= when blood sugar goes below 70. Must be corrected with fast acting sugar or carbs like juice or candy. BG below 50 can be life threatening and going too low will cause seizure and death.

High blood sugar or “high” = any BG over 120 although many diabetics won’t feel symptoms until BG is over 200. Prolonged high BG increases chances of diabetic complications such as kidney failure, blindness and amputation. High BG also brings risk of DKA described next.

DKA = diabetic keto acidosis. High BG causes a build up of toxins in the blood called ketones. If not reversed, DKA will lead to multiple organ failure and death. Unlike low blood sugar which can cause rapid death, DKA is typically slower to develop. Many T1 diabetics are in DKA at diagnosis and require hospitalization. When having sustained highs or when sick, T1’s have urine test strips at home to make sure ketones don’t get too high.

A1C = Blood test run several times a year, it reflects average BG over the past 2 months. It also can be used to diagnose diabetes, particularly Type 2 diabetes. Diabetics used to aim for an A1C under 7 although in recent years that target was lowered to 6.5. Statistics show having an A1C under 6.5 significantly lowers the risk of diabetic complications.

Endocrinologist or “endo” = a doctor specializing in hormones or diabetes care. T1D’s see their endo anywhere from every 3 months to once a year (depending on health group, primary care doctor or insurance coverage), sometimes more often if BG’s are particularly being difficult for the patient to manage alone. Endo’s write a lot of prescriptions for us from insulin and test strips to pump and CGM supplies.

Glucometer or meter = meter that uses a small amount of blood (from a finger prick) to measure current BG. Each test requires a test strip and T1 diabetics sometimes test 10 times a day or more. So we end up with a lot of used test strips. Testing BG also requires a lancet to prick a drop of blood to test. Diabetics are told to change their lancet needle each time they test but T1D’s are notorious for going months or even years without changing lancets! The risk of consequences is very small.

CGM = Continuous Glucose Monitor. Most common brands are Medtronic, Dexcom and Libre. The CGM has two components, a sensor (thin wire) that is inserted under the skin and a Bluetooth transmitter connected to it. The sensor lasts from 1-2 weeks (depending on the brand, a newer brand called Eversense lasts 3 months) before a new one needs to be inserted. The Bluetooth transmits CGM data to an insulin pump, receiver or cell phone. Both real time data as well as tracking data and graphs can be seen and used to make treatment decisions. Alarms can also be set to alert the wearer when BG is outside a desired range (high or low) as well as when it is rapidly rising or falling.

Insulin pump = a device worn 24/7/365 to deliver insulin. Three biggest brands Medtronic, Tandem and Omnipod. Medtronic and Tandem are wired units with a cartridge of insulin in the pump and then a small tube running to the connection just under the skin. A menu on the pump controls the administration of insulin. Omnipod is a pod filled with insulin and attached to the skin. A wireless device (called a PDM or personal diabetes manager) controls the administration of insulin. Insulin pump sites must be moved every three days both to prevent infection and because constant injection in one spot causes the skin to stop absorbing the insulin as well.

MDI = multiple daily injections. T1D’s will either be on a pump or MDI. While I personally think anyone would be crazy to prefer MDI over a pump, there are some T1’s who don’t like wearing an insulin pump and some who like taking a break from wearing it at times, called a pump break.

Basal = the rate of continuous insulin needed 24/7

Bolus = a one time dose of insulin given before a meal or to correct a high

Diabuddy – A fellow T1 diabetic friend

These are just the basic terms used regularly by T1 diabetics. It would be nearly impossible to gather all the terms into one blog post but as you read my blog, you will probably learn more of the lingo. So next time you are talking to a diabetic, you will be better prepared to know the language ❤️

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