Diabetes Glossary

Browse or search for definitions from our comprehensive list of diabetes terms.

Browse Glossary: "b"

background retinopathy


a type of damage to the retina of the eye marked by bleeding, fluid accumulation, and abnormal dilation of the blood vessels. Background retinopathy is an early stage of diabetic retinopathy. Also called simple or nonproliferative (non-pro-LIF-er-uh-tiv) retinopathy.

basal rate

a steady trickle of low levels of longer-acting insulin , such as that used in insulin pumps.

beta cell

a cell that makes insulin. Beta cells are located in the islets of the pancreas.



a class of oral medicine used to treat type 2 diabetes that lowers blood glucose by reducing the amount of glucose produced by the liver and by helping the body respond better to insulin. (Generic name: metformin.)

blood glucose

blood glucose, or commonly referred to as blood sugar, is the form of energy circulating in the blood stream. Blood glucose is the end result of digestion, absorption and metabolism of food.

blood glucose level

the amount of glucose in a given amount of blood. It is noted in milligrams in a deciliter, or mg/dL.

blood glucose meter

a small, portable machine used by people with diabetes to check their bloodsugar levels. After pricking the skin with a lancet , one places a drop of blood on a test strip in the machine. The meter

blood glucose monitoring

checking blood glucose level on a regular basis in order to manage diabetes. A blood glucose meter

blood pressure

the force of blood exerted on the inside walls of blood vessels. Blood pressure is expressed as a ratio / 390">arteries. The second number is the diastolic (DY-uh-STAH-lik) pressure, or the pressure when the heart rests.

blood sampling devices

a small instrument for pricking the skin with a fine needle to obtain a sample of blood to test for glucose

blood sugar

see blood glucose

blood sugar level

see blood glucose level.

blood urea nitrogen

yoo-REE-uh NY-truh-jen

(BUN): a waste product in the blood from the breakdown of protein. The kidneys filter blood to remove urea. As kidney function decreases, the BUN levels increase.

blood vessels

tubes that carry blood to and from all parts of the body. The three main types of blood vessels are arteries , veins , and capillaries.


see body mass index.

body mass index (BMI)

a measure used to evaluate body weight relative to a person's height. BMI is used to find out if a person is underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese.



an extra amount of insulin taken to cover an expected rise in blood glucose , often related to a meal or snack.

borderline diabetes

a former term for pre-diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance.

brittle diabetes

a term used when a person's blood glucose level moves often from low to high and from high to low.



a bulge on the first joint of the big toe, caused by the swelling of a fluid sac under the skin. This spot can become red, sore, and infected.


    Our glossary includes and builds on the definitions found in The Diabetes Dictionary (NIH Publication No. 07-3016, October 2006) published by the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, which is available on their website and is not copyrighted. The Clearinghouse encourages users of this publication to duplicate and distribute as many copies as desired.

    The U.S. Government does not endorse or favor any specific commercial product or company. Trade, proprietary, or company names appearing in this document are used only because they are considered essential in the context of the information provided.

    The National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC) is a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). For more information, visit their website at www.diabetes.niddk.nih.gov.