Glossary of Diabetes Terms

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Glucose is a simple sugar that is fundamental to life itself. It can be immediately transfered through the intestinal wall to our bloodstream, or it can be made in the liver from carbohydrates we eat, or even in the kidneys by other means. It is what our cells use as fuel, and is so important to our existence that our bodies have multiple ways of making sure we have enough. Glucose is what our blood sugar meters read.

Glucose is also called dextrose on ingredient labels. It is often lumped together with other sugars like fructose and galactose in food literature since the liver breaks them all down into glucose very easily. All three of these have 6 carbon, 12 hydrogen and 6 oxygen atoms in their molecular structure, but are arranged differently than glucose. On top of that, the sugar you have in the sugar bowl is probably sucrose, which is actually made up of a molecule of glucose and one of fructose. The sugar found in milk is called lactose, and is made of a molecule of glucose and one of galactose, and there are more. So, it can be confusing. But what is important for diabetics to know is that most of the carbohydrates we eat, including simple carbs like sugar or complex carbs like whole grains get converted to glucose in our body.

For more info, two very good articles come to mind –, and

This term is used on the What Is Diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes pages.



Glycogen is a complex carbohydrate made from glucose and acts as a ready energy source for the body’s cells. Most is made in the liver and muscle tissue after eating, when there is excess glucose in the bloodstream. As glucose levels in the bloodstream drop from physical exertion, glycogen in muscle cells is converted back into glucose and used immediately. Glycogen in the liver is also converted into glucose, but is returned to the bloodstream where it can be delivered to fuel other cells in the body as well.

There is much more to the process. If you need additional information, should provide more info than you’ll ever need on the subject, (unless you’re studying to be a microbiologist!)

This term is used on the What Is Diabetes page.



As it relates to diabetes, ketoacidosis is a condition that people with untreated type 1 diabetes need to be extremely careful of. Glucose is needed in the cells as fuel, but when there is insufficient insulin to trigger the cells to absorb it, the body thinks it is starving and sends a signal for the liver to use fat reserves. As the liver does that, it releases byproducts called keytones into the bloodstream. Since the pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin anymore, nothing triggers the body to stop that process, and if untreated it can result in toxic levels in the bloodstream that can cause coma, followed by death.

Because of the way type 2 diabetes occurs (usually gradual, most likely from insulin resistance rather than lack of insulin), ketoacidosis is uncommon in type 2 diabetes.

If more information about ketoacidosis is needed, both Wikipedia and the American Diabetes Association have great discussions on the topic at or

This term is used on the What Causes Diabetes page