Glossary of Diabetic Terms - B

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Background retinopathy: This is the mildest form of eye disease damage from diabetes. It can be associated with normal vision and often progresses to other forms of eye disease.

Basal rate: The amount of insulin required to manage normal daily blood glucose fluctuations. Most people constantly produce insulin to manage the glucose fluctuations that occur during the day. In a person with diabetes, giving a constant low level amount of insulin via insulin pump mimics this normal phenomenon.

Beta cell: A type of cell in an area of the pancreas called the islets of Langerhans. Beta cells make and release insulin, which helps control the glucose level in the blood.

Biosynthetic insulin: Genetically engineered human insulin. This insulin has a much lower risk of inducing an allergic reaction in people who use it, unlike cow (bovine) or pork (porcine) insulins. The manufacturers of synthetic insulin make it in a short-acting form which works to cover meal time increases in sugars, they also produce longer-acting insulins which cover sugars between meals and when fasting, such as during the night.

Blood glucose: See glucose.

Blood glucose monitoring or testing: A method of testing how much sugar is in your blood. Home blood glucose monitoring involves pricking your finger with a lancing device, putting a drop of blood on a test strip and inserting the test strip into a blood glucose-testing meter that displays your blood glucose level. Blood sugar testing can also be done in the laboratory. Most large recognized organizations recommend blood glucose monitoring numerous times during the day if you have diabetes. Most recommend a glucose check first thing in the morning before eating and a sugar check two hours after meals.

Blood pressure: The measurement of the pressure or force of blood against the blood vessels (arteries). Blood pressure is written as two numbers. The first number or top number is called the systolic pressure and is the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats and pushes more blood into the arteries. The second number, called the diastolic pressure, is the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between beats. The ideal blood pressure for non-pregnant people with diabetes is 130/80 or less.

Brittle diabetes: When a person's blood sugar level often shifts very quickly from high to low and from low to high.

Southwestern Medical Center cardiologists have uncovered how a specific protein’s previously unsuspected role contributes to the deterioration of heart muscle in patients with diabetes. Investigators in the mouse study also have found a way to reverse the damage caused by this protein.

Yesterday, I heard a patient advocate say he was thankful for diabetes. He said, “If I had to choose a disease, type 1 diabetes isn’t a bad choice. Sometimes I feel thankful for having it.” The 40-something who said this was speaking on the radio as I was driving. I nearly swerved off the road.