Thursday, February 25, 2010

Diabetes Vocabulary

I met Randy, a dad whose 8-year old daughter was recently diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes for coffee last week. He asked me what a CGM was, what APP stood for and if c-peptide was a drug. Diabetes jargon can be really confusing.

Aside from having to learn about the disease and daily care, parents of a diabetic child have to learn a new language. There are medical terms that doctors and the diabetes community throw about that make it incomprehensible for non-scientific geeks like me. In fact they seem to keep coming up with new words and acronyms that can make you feel dumb.

There have been many times that a doctor or researcher has mentioned a new term or therapy to me, and they have been met with my blank look (someone once described it as looking like "a pig staring at a wristwatch"). My advice to you is to not gloss over the gap in knowledge. Ask questions and get them to explain it to you. I find that it's well worth it, and the person telling you about it feels smart for explaining something that you don't know.

As I read diabetes research papers, I find myself using great tools like Google and Wikipedia all the time. The reading may go slower, but I get a big comprehension pay-off. It really is like learning a new language; I picture myself in the role of a student of the disease. I end up being more patient with my initial lack of understanding, and strive to learn as much about it as I can.

Here's some homework for you: For anyone who is newly diagnosed, I found that the best introductory glossary of diabetes terms is on the Joslin website. You can get a good vocabulary lesson there. Study hard!

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