Prediabetes means that your blood
sugar level is higher than normal but not yet high enough to be classified as
type 2 diabetes. Without intervention, prediabetes is likely to become type 2
diabetes in 10 years or less. If you have prediabetes, the long-term damage of
diabetes — especially to your heart and circulatory system — may already be
There's good news, however.
Prediabetes can be an opportunity for you to improve your health. Progression
from prediabetes to type 2 diabetes isn't inevitable.
With healthy lifestyle changes —
such as eating healthy foods, including physical activity in your daily routine
and maintaining a healthy weight — you may be able to bring your blood sugar
level back to normal.
Often, prediabetes has no signs
One possible sign that you may be
at risk of type 2 diabetes is darkened skin on certain parts of the body. This
condition is called acanthosis nigricans. Common areas that may be affected
include the neck, armpits, elbows, knees and knuckles.
Classic red flags that suggest
you've moved from pre diabetes to type 2 diabetes include:
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Blurred vision
When to see a doctor
Consult your doctor if you're
concerned about diabetes or if you notice any type 2 diabetes signs or symptoms
— increased thirst and frequent urination, fatigue, and blurred vision.
Ask your doctor about blood
glucose screening if you have any risk factors for pre diabetes, such as:
- You're overweight, with a body
mass index above 25
- You're inactive
- You're age 45 or older
- You have a family history of type
- You're African-American,
Hispanic, American Indian, Asian-American or a Pacific Islander
- You developed gestational
diabetes when you were pregnant or gave birth to a baby who weighed more than 9
pounds (4.1 kilograms)
- You have polycystic ovary
syndrome — a condition characterized by irregular menstrual periods, excess
hair growth and obesity
- You have high blood pressure
- Your high-density lipoprotein
(HDL) cholesterol is below 35 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) (0.9 millimoles
per liter, or mmol/L) or your triglyceride level is above 250 mg/dL (2.83
The exact cause of prediabetes is
unknown, although family history and genetics appear to play an important role.
Researchers have discovered some genes that are related to insulin resistance.
Excess fat — especially abdominal fat — and inactivity also seem to be
important factors in the development of prediabetes.
What is clear is that people who
have prediabetes aren't quite processing sugar (glucose) properly anymore. This
causes sugar to build up in the bloodstream instead of doing its normal job of
fueling the cells that make up muscles and other tissues.
Most of the glucose in your body
comes from the foods you eat, specifically foods that contain carbohydrates.
Any food that contains carbohydrates can affect your blood sugar levels, not
just sweet foods.
During digestion, sugar enters
your bloodstream, and with the help of insulin, it enters the body's cells
where it is utilized as a source of energy.
Insulin is a hormone that comes
from a gland located just behind the stomach (pancreas). When you eat, your
pancreas secretes insulin into your bloodstream. As insulin circulates, it acts
like a key that unlocks microscopic doors that allow sugar to enter your cells.
Insulin lowers the amount of
sugar in your bloodstream. As your blood sugar level drops, so does the
secretion of insulin from your pancreas.
When you have prediabetes, this
process begins to work improperly. Instead of fueling your cells, sugar builds
up in your bloodstream. This occurs when your pancreas doesn't make enough
insulin or your cells become resistant to the action of insulin or both.
The same factors that increase the
risk of developing type 2 diabetes increase the risk of developing prediabetes,
- Weight. Being overweight is a primary risk factor for prediabetes. The
more fatty tissue you have — especially inside and between the muscle and skin
around your abdomen — the more resistant your cells become to insulin.
- Waist size. A large waist circumference can indicate insulin resistance.
The risk goes up for men with waists larger than 40 inches around and for women
with waists larger than 35 inches.
- Inactivity. The less active you are, the greater your risk of prediabetes.
Physical activity helps you control your weight, uses up glucose as energy and
makes your cells more sensitive to insulin.
- Age. Although diabetes can develop at any age, the risk of prediabetes
increases as you get older, especially after age 45. This may be because people
tend to exercise less, lose muscle mass and gain weight as they age.
- Family history. The risk of prediabetes increases if a parent or sibling has
type 2 diabetes.
- Race. Although it's unclear why, people of certain races — including
African-Americans, Hispanics, American Indians, Asian-Americans and Pacific
Islanders — are more likely to develop pre diabetes.
- Gestational diabetes. If you developed gestational diabetes when you were pregnant,
your risk of later developing diabetes increases. If you gave birth to a baby
who weighed more than 9 pounds (4.1 kilograms), you're also at increased risk
- Polycystic ovary
syndrome. For women, having polycystic
ovary syndrome — a common condition characterized by irregular menstrual
periods, excess hair growth and obesity — increases the risk of diabetes.
- Sleep. Research has linked sleep issues, such as obstructive sleep
apnea, to an increased risk of insulin resistance. Sleep apnea is a sleep
disorder that causes breathing to be interrupted numerous times during sleep,
leading to poor sleep quality. People who work changing shifts or night shifts,
possibly causing sleep problems, also may have an increased risk of prediabetes
or type 2 diabetes.
Other conditions associated with
- High blood pressure
- Low levels of HDL, or the
- High levels of triglycerides — a
type of fat in your blood
When these conditions — high
blood pressure, high blood sugar, and abnormal blood fats and cholesterol —
occur together along with obesity, they are associated with resistance to
insulin. The combination of three or more of these conditions is often referred
to as metabolic syndrome.
Progression to type 2 diabetes is
the most serious consequence of untreated prediabetes because type 2 diabetes
can lead to other complications, such as:
Source: Mayo Clinic
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease