What does that mean?

Quite often I write as if the only readers of my blog are fellow diabetics who understand all the words and phrases etc I use. I wanted to clarify a few of them so my posts make sense, even if you're not used to the lingo :)

Insulin - the hormone produced by the pancreas to allow the body to properly process the glucose that is a) produced by the liver and b) found in pretty much every food/drink known to man. Because my body doesn't produce its own, I use an insulin pump to give me a 24/7 infusion of insulin.

Glucose - pretty much what every type of sugar or carbohydrate turns into, in simple terms. The body uses it as fuel.

BG - blood glucose. The great diabetes game is all about keeping those BG levels between 4 and 7mmol/l (in the US, where a lot of d-blogs are written, they use mg/DL - just x18 to convert UK readings to US ones!). However, because of a million different factors (hormones, illness, exercise, type of carbohydrate, stress, weather, time of year, what colour socks you're wearing, etc) this is often quite an elusive target; but it's what we're all aiming for.

Bolus - this is a 'squirt' of fast acting insulin to allow my body to deal with the glucose in the blood stream - so I can bolus for food, and I can bolus to correct a high BG. The amount of bolus insulin I take depends on what & how much I've eaten, and also what time of day it is. I have pre-programmed my pump with my insulin to carbohydrate ratios (which change throughout the day) so that when I tell it my blood glucose level and the carbs I am about to eat, it can suggest how much insulin I should take (it also takes into account the blood glucose level target I have set, and active insulin).

Basal - this is my 'background' insulin. It's the same sort of insulin as my bolus - but it is there to do a different job - to deal with the small amounts of glucose kicked out by the liver (as opposed to carbohydrates I have eaten).

High - not junked up on something illegal, I use the word high when my blood glucose (BG) levels are above target range. This can happen for a few reasons: miscalculating the carbs in the food I've eaten (thus taking the wrong bolus amount), missing an injection somehow, illness, stress...the list goes on. To correct this, I would take a certain amount of insulin (1 unit of Novorapid brings my BG levels down by roughly 2mmol/l).

Low - this time, when there is too little glucose in my blood. This has immediate effects which are very unpleasant (think being confused, shaking, unable to focus, excessive sweating, dilated pupils) - and the effects vary from person to person. To correct this, I need to eat or drink something with fast acting glucose in it, such as dextrose tablets, lucozade, etc (note: not produce endorsement, just examples).

DKA - diabetes ketoacidosis. Very nasty and something luckily I've never been through. When blood glucose levels hit a certain point and there is no insulin to take care of the extra glucose hanging around in the blood, the body is essentially deprived of fuel and so begins to break down fat to use as fuel. This releases acids which can poison the body. Many children are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes after falling into DKA.

DSN - diabetes specialist nurse

Insulin pump - a small device, roughly the size of a pager, that is connected to me 24/7 via tubing. It delivers insulin to me through a cannula, a small piece of teflon that sits under my skin for roughly 3 days at a time. I have pre-programmed it with all kinds of information so it can make suggestions as to how much insulin I should take (insulin:carb ratios, insulin sensitivity, BG targets). However, I still have to make the ultimate decision on how much insulin to take at each meal or snack. Only 4% of people with type 1 diabetes use insulin pumps in the UK; I am very grateful that I have the opportunity to do so, but it has been a long battle to get one.