Diabetes Glossary P

Diabetes has a great number of terms that are specific to diabetes or diabetic-like conditions. This glossary is meant as a guide to identify terminology often used extensively and liberally in the medical community.

Terms Listed Aphabetically
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z



An organ behind the lower part of the stomach that is about the size of a hand. It makes insulin so that the body can use glucose (sugar) for energy. It also makes enzymes that help the body digest food. Spread all over the pancreas are areas called the islets of Langerhans. The cells in these areas each have a special purpose. The alpha cells make glucagon, which raises the level of glucose in the blood; the beta cells make insulin; the delta cells make somatostatin. There are also the PP cells and the D1 cells, about which little is known.

Pancreas Transplant

A surgical procedure that involves replacing the pancreas of a person who has diabetes with a healthy pancreas that can make insulin. The healthy pancreas comes from a donor who has just died or from a living relative. A person can donate half a pancreas and still live normally.

At present, pancreas transplants are usually performed in persons with insulin-dependent diabetes who have severe complications. This is because after the transplant the patient must take immunosuppressive drugs that are highly toxic and may cause damage to the body.


A procedure in which a surgeon takes out the pancreas.


Inflammation (pain, tenderness) of the pancreas; it can make the pancreas stop working. It is caused by drinking too much alcohol, by disease in the gallbladder, or by a virus.

Peak Action

The time period when the effect of something is as strong as it can be such as when insulin in having the most effect on lowering the glucose (sugar) in the blood.

Pediatric Endocrinologist

A doctor who sees and treats children with problems of the endocrine glands; diabetes is an endocrine disorder. See also: Endocrine glands.

Periodontal Disease

Damage to the gums. People who have diabetes are more likely to have gum disease than people who do not have diabetes.


A specialist in the treatment of diseases of the gums.

Peripheral Neuropathy

Nerve damage, usually affecting the feet and legs; causing pain, numbness, or a tingling feeling. Also called “somatic neuropathy” or “distal sensory polyneuropathy.”

Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD)

Disease in the large blood vessels of the arms, legs, and feet. People who have had diabetes for a long time may get this because major blood vessels in their arms, legs, and feet are blocked and these limbs do not receive enough blood. The signs of PVD are aching pains in the arms, legs, and feet (especially when walking) and foot sores that heal slowly. Although people with diabetes cannot always avoid PVD, doctors say they have a better chance of avoiding it if they take good care of their feet, do not smoke, and keep both their blood pressure and diabetes under good control. See also: Macrovascular disease.

Peritoneal Dialysis

A way to clean the blood of people who have kidney disease. See also: Dialysis.


A person trained to prepare and distribute medicines and to give information about them.


Using a special strong beam of light (laser) to seal off bleeding blood vessels such as in the eye. The laser can also burn away blood vessels that should not have grown in the eye. This is the main treatment for diabetic retinopathy.

Pituitary Gland

An endocrine gland in the small, bony cavity at the base of the brain. Often called “the master gland,” the pituitary serves the body in many ways-in growth, in food use, and in reproduction.


A doctor who treats and takes care of people’s feet.


The care and treatment of human feet in health and disease.

Point System

A way to plan meals that uses points to rate food. The foods are placed in four classes: calories, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Each food is given a point value within its class. A person with a planned diet for the day can choose foods in the same class that have the same point values for meals and snacks.


A great thirst that lasts for long periods of time; a sign of diabetes.


Great hunger; a sign of diabetes. People with this great hunger often lose weight.

Polyunsaturated Fats

A type of fat that comes from vegetables. See also: Fats.


Having to urinate often; a common sign of diabetes.

Postprandial Blood Glucose

Blood taken 1-2 hours after eating to see the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood.


A condition that some women with diabetes have during the late stages of pregnancy. Two signs of this condition are high blood pressure and swelling because the body cells are holding extra water.


The number of people in a given group or population who are reported to have a disease.

Previous Abnormality of Glucose Tolerance (PrevAGT)

A term for people who have had above-normal levels of blood glucose (sugar) when tested for diabetes in the past but who show as normal on a current test. PrevAGT used to be called either “latent diabetes” or “prediabetes.”


Telling a person now what is likely to happen in the future because of having a disease.


The substance made first in the pancreas that is then made into insulin. When insulin is purified from the pancreas of pork or beef, all the proinsulin is not fully removed. When some people use these insulins, the proinsulin can cause the body to react with a rash, to resist the insulin, or even to make dents or lumps in the skin at the place where the insulin is injected. The purified insulins have less proinsulin and other impurities than the other types of insulins.

Proliferative Retinopathy

A disease of the small blood vessels of the retina of the eye. See also: Diabetic retinopathy.


A man-made substitute for a missing body part such as an arm or a leg; also an implant such as for the hip.


One of the three main classes of food. Proteins are made of amino acids, which are called the building blocks of the cells. The cells need proteins to grow and to mend themselves. Protein is found in many foods such as meat, fish, poultry, and eggs. See also: Carbohydrate; fats.


Too much protein in the urine. This may be a sign of kidney damage.


Itching skin; may be a symptom of diabetes.

Purified Insulins

Insulins with much less of the impure proinsulin. It is thought that the use of purified insulins may help avoid or reduce some of the problems of people with diabetes such as allergic reactions.