We’re Saying the Same Thing but Using Different Words: Complicated Words Associated With Diabetes Care
Medical notes and lab work are becoming more available via online healthcare portals. However, that doesn’t make the medical jargon found in them any easier to understand. You may read through your provider’s notes and suddenly feel the need to use Google to figure them out! It can be overwhelming with so many big words and strange terms!
Medical terms associated with type 2 diabetes care
Let’s close the gap between layman's terms and medical terms often associated with diabetes care or complications:1,2
Cerebrovascular Accident (CVA): Refers to decreased blood flow to an area of the brain (can be related to bleeding in the brain or a blood clot). Other descriptions: stroke, cerebral infarction, brain attack, impaired blood flow to the brain.
Cardiovascular Disease (CVD)*: Refers to diseases of the heart and/or blood vessels. Other descriptions: heart disease, "clogged arteries," atherosclerosis, coronary artery disease (CAD), "heart blockage."
*CVD can also include conditions like strokes (also called cerebrovascular events (CVA), heart attacks (also called myocardial infarctions (MI), arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat), and more.
Nephropathy: Refers to diseases of the kidney. Other descriptions: renal disease, kidney disease, chronic kidney disease (CKD), "kidney damage," "declining kidney function," "low kidney function," poor kidney function, end-stage-renal-disease (ESRD).
Neuropathy: Refers to damage or diseases affecting the nerves. This can happen in any part of the body and affects how that body part feels and/or works. Most people describe this in their feet. Other descriptions: "burning/tingling in my feet," "nerve damage," "can’t feel my feet," neuropathies, neuropathic complications, peripheral neuropathy, sensory neuropathy.
Autonomic Neuropathy (AN): Refers to damage that can occur to the nerves which regulate heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and other important body functions. Other descriptions: autonomic dysfunction, autonomic complications, autonomic dysregulation.
Gastroparesis: Refers to slowed digestion of food in the stomach and delayed release of that food into the small intestines. Other descriptions: delayed gastric emptying, slowed digestion, impaired gastrointestinal (GI) function, "stomach digests too slow," "food sits in my stomach longer."
Sexual Dysfunction: Refers to impaired sexual organs. For men, this can mean erectile dysfunction (ED). For women, this can mean decreased desire or painful sex. Other descriptions: low libido, decreased arousal, "low sexual desire," painful intercourse.
Periodontal Disease: Refers to infections and diseases of the teeth and gums. Can include gingivitis (infection of gums), periodontitis (severe infection of gum and bones), cavities and tooth decay, and more. Other descriptions: gum infection, oral infection, dental complications, oral mucosal infection/inflammation, "gum disease," "mouth infection."
Retinopathy: Damage to blood vessels in the back of the eye (which are responsible for keeping the retina healthy). Other descriptions: diabetes eye disease, "'diabetic' eye disease," proliferative retinopathy, non-proliferative retinopathy, eye damage, visual complications, "bleeding behind my eyes."
Sensorineural Hearing Loss: Diabetes-related hearing loss theorized to be related to blood vessel damage in the ear. Other descriptions: diabetes hearing loss, "hard-of-hearing," otolaryngologic complications.
How well does your doctor explain diabetes care terms to you?
Do you have a family history of diabetes?