Type 1 Diabetes Terms

Because I often talk about Type 1 diabetes (T1D) on this blog, and you may not have read every post to get background and context on the various terms I use, I have created a handy cheat sheet for T1D lingo.

What is Type 1 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes (T1D), formerly known as juvenile diabetes, is an autoimmune disorder in which the body no longer produces insulin, a hormone needed to digest food into energy for survival. There is no cure, and this type of diabetes cannot be changed with diet and exercise.

Glossary of Terms

Types of Diabetes

  • Gestational diabetes: Pregnant women who have never had diabetes before but who have high blood glucose (sugar) levels during pregnancy due to your body not able to make and use all the insulin it needs for pregnancy.
  • Type 1 diabetes (that’s me!): T1D is an autoimmune disease that occurs when a person’s pancreas stops producing insulin, the hormone that controls blood-sugar levels. T1D develops when the insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells are mistakenly destroyed by the body’s immune system. There is nothing anyone can do to prevent T1D. Presently, there is no known cure.
  • Type 2 diabetes (most common form of diabetes): People with Type 2 experience insulin resistance, where the body does not use insulin properly. Some can manage with healthy eating and exercise, while others need medication or insulin to manage.

Blood Sugar

  • Blood Sugar (Glucose):
    • Many foods break down into blood sugar, which is used for energy to fuel our brain, heart, and muscles.
    • Blood sugar either comes from the food we eat or is made by the liver.
    • It’s usually found in two places: in the blood stream as it is carried to all of our organs and cells, and inside the cells where it is changed into energy.
  • A1C: a blood test that measures your average blood sugar level over the last 3 months
  • mg/dl (milligrams per deciliter): a unit of measurement used to indicate the amount of glucose in a specific amount of blood
  • Hyperglycemia: high blood sugar level
  • Hypoglycemia: low blood sugar level
  • Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA): a serious condition caused by long-term high blood sugar levels that can lead to coma or even death


  • Insulin
    • a hormone made by the pancreas that allows your body to use sugar (glucose) from carbohydrates in the food that you eat for energy or to store glucose for future use
    • helps keep your blood sugar from getting too high or too low
  • Unit
    • a unit of insulin is the most basic measure of insulin
    • U-100 is the most common concentration of insulin
    • U-100 means that there are 100 units of insulin per milliliter (ml) of liquid
  • Basal Rate
    • the minimum amount of insulin required to manage normal daily blood sugar fluctuations
    • I call this my base rate of insulin needed to survive in between meals
  • Bolus Insulin
    • a bolus dose is insulin that is specifically taken at meal times to keep blood sugar levels under control following a meal
    • also known as short-acting or rapid-acting insulin
  • Active Insulin
    • the amount of insulin still working in your body after your injection or bolus of rapid acting insulin (usually lasts up to three hours)
    • also known as insulin on board (IOB)
  • Correction Dose
    • given in addition to bolus and basal insulin to lower your blood sugar level in between meals
    • also known as a correction factor or insulin sensitivity
  • Insulin-to-Carb Ratio
    • specifies the number of grams of carbohydrate covered by each unit of rapid- or short-acting insulin (bolus)
    • a fairly typical insulin-to-carb ratio is 1 unit of insulin for every 15 grams of carbohydrate
  • Pancreas
    • The pancreas is an organ located behind the lower part of the stomach, in front of the spine and plays an important part in diabetes.
    • The pancreas is the organ which produces insulin, one the main hormones that helps to regulate blood sugar levels.

Medical Supplies

  • Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM)
    • a method to track glucose levels throughout the day and night
    • CGM systems take glucose measurements at regular intervals, 24 hours a day, and translate the readings into dynamic data, generating glucose direction and rate of change
    • I call mine Cosmo
  • Insulin Pump
    • a small device that mimics some of the ways a healthy pancreas works
    • it delivers continuous and customized doses of rapid-acting insulin 24 hours a day to match your body’s needs
    • I call mine Gizmo
  • Personal Diabetes Manager (PDM)
    • helps you accomplish everyday tasks like carbohydrate counting, bolus doses and more with pod therapy
    • I call mine Evie
  • Glucagon: a hormone that treats severe low blood sugar (injected like an EpiPen®)
  • Test Strips and Lancets
    • a key component of blood sugar testing
    • with a testing strip, you collect a small sample of blood that you typically obtain by pricking your skin with a tiny needle called a lancet.
  • Glucometer
    • also known as a glucose meter or blood glucose monitoring device
    • a home measurement system you can use to test the amount of glucose (sugar) in your blood (using a lancet and test strip to collect the sample of blood)


  • Carbohydrate
    • one of the main types of nutrients and the most important energy source for your body
    • the sugars, starches and fibers found in fruits, grains, vegetables and milk products
  • Sugar:
    • the generic name for sweet-tasting, soluble carbohydrates, many of which are used in food
    • simple sugars, also called monosaccharides, include glucose, fructose, and galactose
  • Glycemic Index: a value assigned to foods based on how slowly or how quickly those foods cause increases in blood glucose levels
  • Gluten:
    • a general name for the proteins found in wheat, rye, barley and triticale – a cross between wheat and rye
    • helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together
    • A person with one autoimmune disorder (type 1 diabetes) may be prone to developing additional autoimmune disorders, such as Celiac disease – a serious autoimmune disease that occurs in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine.