Our Review Process
Our articles undergo extensive medical review by board-certified practitioners to confirm that all factual inferences with respect to medical conditions, symptoms, treatments, and protocols are legitimate, canonical, and adhere to current guidelines and the latest discoveries. Read more.
Our Editorial Team
Shifa Fatima, MSc.
Dr. Apoorva T, MHM.
Early Signs and Symptoms of prediabetes
Diabetes occurs when your blood glucose, often known as blood sugar, rises excessively. Glucose is regulated by insulin, a pancreatic hormone that facilitates the passage of glucose from food into cells for energy. When the islet cells of the pancreas are unable to produce enough insulin or when they produce no insulin at all, a person can get diagnosed with diabetes. If you have been dealing with it, or if you have had the chance to talk to someone who has been diagnosed, you can understand how difficult it may be to manage the symptoms and the complications that arise as a result of this and there are several signs and symptoms of prediabetes that every diabetes should be aware of.
Every decision that a person has to make is now based on this diagnosis. It may not seem like a big deal to an outsider, but for someone who has to deal with this disease day in and day out, only they can imagine the massive impact this disease can cause. Not only is the diagnosis overwhelming for the person, but also the complete task of managing this disease comes with a lot of challenges.
Diabetes can be of different types. It is divided into four basic categories based on its features and the nature of the onset.
1. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. The immune system misreads and assaults insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas, killing them. Genes may also play a huge factor in the onset of T1D. A virus may also cause the immune system to assault the body. The exact causes of this are unknown. Around 10% of diabetics have this kind of diabetes. This type is usually seen among younger people, sometimes even developing at birth.
2. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body develops insulin resistance, leading blood sugar levels to rise. The pancreas cannot generate enough insulin to overcome insulin resistance in prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. Glucose accumulates in the bloodstream instead of going to the cells. It's unknown why this happens, although genetic and environmental factors may play a role. Body fat, weight, stress, eating habits, sleep cycle, etc are all causal factors. This develops later in life after the age of 35, however, the age prevalence has decreased to 30 years, recently.
3. Prediabetes occurs when your blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as diabetes. This can occur due to the same causal factors as T2D and to understand what are the warning signs of prediabetes, it would be the same as T1D or T2D.
4. Gestational Diabetes can occur due to the body weight that increases during pregnancy. When the body’s hormones are on overdrive, they can cause a significant weight gain, as seen in pregnancies. When the body weight increases, the ability of the pancreas to produce insulin lowers, or the molecules produced are not enough to reach all the cells in the body owing to the increased fat. The placenta produces insulin-blocking chemicals during pregnancy.
Prediabetes and gestational diabetes are reversible. It would arguably be the most important to know and understand what are the symptoms of prediabetes because if the symptoms are not treated, it can lead to the onset of T2D. To be able to control the symptoms and therefore, the onset of diabetes is a privilege not many people have. Take this time to gain a thorough insight into the signs and symptoms of prediabetes so that you can control early signs of prediabetes if an unfortunate situation arises.
Also read about what level of blood sugar is dangerous
Table of Contents
What are the warning signs of prediabetes?
It is important to learn to recognize and deal with the signs of prediabetes as even though it is not enough to be classified as diabetes, the excess sugar in the bloodstream can cause significant damage to the organs. The high levels of sugar in the blood can cause more protein in the urine. This extra protein is known to damage the kidneys. Therefore, noticing what are the warning signs of prediabetes could keep you one step ahead of a full-blown diagnosis and could help you reverse the conditions with a few steps. Know more about signs and symptoms of diabetes mellitus.
What is Prediabetes?
Unlike common statements, prediabetes is considered to be a ‘serious’ health condition. What exactly happens in this condition is that the blood glucose levels in the body increase and are more than normal for a significant period and they cannot come back down unless an extra effort is made. The normal range for blood sugars is 90-150 mg/dl (this can vary with different people based on certain factors). If your sugars remain higher than 150 mg/dl for a longer period, it would eventually raise your HbA1c levels (average 3-monthly sugars) which puts you at risk for prediabetes. Know about high blood sugar level
Risk Factors for Prediabetes
Most commonly, the risk factors for diabetes and prediabetes are not known. For conditions like type 1 diabetes, the onset can be mysterious and can come without any warning. Diabetes can be an autoimmune disease with your own body’s cells attacking the healthy cells or they can also have a genetic link. There are a few risk factors that are associated with the onset of diabetes in adults. You might be at a higher risk for developing prediabetes and the symptoms if you are also dealing with the following:
- A massive or constant stress or a change in life with unhealthy coping mechanisms.
- Unhealthy lifestyle – eating a lot of junk food, having aerated drinks or alcoholic drinks, too much sugar content, erratic sleeping patterns, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, etc.
- Diseases – cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, high level of cholesterol, liver or kidney diseases, etc.
- Weight is another major risk factor for the onset of diabetes. There is a direct link with people who are overweight to witness the onset of prediabetes or T2D.
- Genetics – if anyone in the family has been diagnosed with diabetes, you might be at risk for it too. Ensure to keep a check on what are the symptoms of prediabetes or diabetes that they are facing so that you can be cautious from the start.
Also know about yoga for diabetes type 1
Warning Signs of Prediabetes?
Prediabetes often goes undiagnosed as it may not always be accompanied by concrete warning signs. However, there are certain symptoms that you can still keep an eye on. Many of these symptoms may also be consistent with signs of other conditions, however, some of the common diabetes warning signs could be worth getting checked at the earliest. It is important to learn to recognize and deal with the signs of prediabetes as even though it is not enough to be classified as diabetes, the excess sugar in the bloodstream can cause significant damage to the organs. The high levels of sugar in the blood can cause more protein in the urine. This extra protein is known to damage the kidneys. Therefore, noticing what are the warning signs of prediabetes could keep you one step ahead of a full-blown diagnosis and could help you reverse the conditions with a few steps. Know about gestational diabetes treatment.
Also read about sugar in urine
As noticed, it can be hard to detect when the onset of diabetes happens. Even with prediabetes, the occurrence can be sudden and shocking. However, this would be less overwhelming if you are already keeping the risk factors in check. What would help additionally is to be completely aware and keep a keen eye out on what are the warning signs of prediabetes so that you could almost nip this disease in the bud. It is also important to note that just because you may have a few of the early indicators, it does not mean that you surely do have prediabetes. The next logical step would be to get a checkup done with the endocrinologist so that you can rule out or get a confirmed diagnosis. The warning signs could be:
The digestive system breaks down food into glucose, this is how glucose enters the bloodstream. In healthy individuals, this sugar usually passes from the bloodstream into the cells as fuel and energy. In people with diabetes or prediabetes, glucose is trapped in the bloodstream and does not make it into the cells due to the lack of production of insulin or insulin resistance. Therefore, the person can feel deprived of energy. Excessive hunger, therefore, is a warning sign of diabetes and prediabetes.
This is also one of the biggest signs of prediabetes that occurs as a result of frequent urination. Since the body is left with insufficient amount of water to perform proper functions, dehydration can set in. Drinking more water can also lead to more urination. It would be important to not quench your thirst with soda or other sugary drinks as it may only worsen your sugar levels and cause more strain on your kidneys.
When the body does not absorb glucose, the kidneys will try to absorb it to clean your blood. The greater the sugar in the body, the more difficult it gets for the kidneys to keep up and they will pass it into the bladder to try to get the sugar to be excreted as urine. The glucose will cause the bladder to fill up with fluid to eliminate the sugar. This process can be taxing on the kidneys, therefore, many people with prediabetes also show signs of chronic kidney disease.
Blurred vision and dizziness
High blood sugar can cause the eyes and tissues to swell. The capillaries and small blood vessels around the eyes can rupture. This can distort the shape of your lens making it tough for the eyes to function properly. This is called diabetic retinopathy and can also lead to severe damage to the retina or permanent blindness if left untreated
Tingling sensations in fingers & toes
High blood sugar levels can damage smaller nerves in the body. This is called diabetic neuropathy. This can even happen in a prediabetic person. It is one of the clearest signs of diabetes.
Tiredness and fatigue
Since glucose is not reaching your cells properly, they are not getting enough fuel to function. This can cause a general sense of fatigue and tiredness. This may also be accompanied by dizziness, headache, difficulty in concentration, slower reflexes, lack of motivation, etc. High blood sugar levels can also cause inflammation in the body.
Some other signs of prediabetes are :-
- Long-lasting wounds or skin infections, etc
- Anxiety and palpitations
- Numbing or shaking of hands and feet
How is prediabetes diagnosed?
Diabetes is measured based on the amount of sugar in your bloodstream. Prediabetes is also diagnosed similarly. This condition can and the prediabetes level can be checked in two ways:
1. A standard blood glucose test – This is a fasting glucose test. Here, your PCP and endocrinologist will check the level of glucose in your blood in the morning. Ideally, the level of sugar in your blood should be approximately 99 mg/dL or lower. Any reading between 100-125 mg/dL can be considered prediabetic. Many doctors recommend their patients get these tests done twice to be sure. Also read about fasting blood sugar levels.
2. A1c blood test – This test, also called the HbA1c test, is a non-fasting test of blood glucose. It measures the average amount of blood glucose in your bloodstream across a period of three months. The value is given in percentage. Normally, the level should be below 5.7%. The prediabetic range is between 5.7 and 6.4%
A person who is diagnosed as prediabetic may not always show other symptoms of prediabetes or diabetes. This is why doctors recommend getting these tests done at least once a year. This will help catch these conditions in their early stages if they are present.
What Are the Treatments for Prediabetes?
If caught early, prediabetes can be reversed with the help of lifestyle changes like a healthy diet and exercise. Depending on your blood sugar levels at the time of diagnosis, the doctors might or might not ask you to consider medications for proper blood sugar control. Several factors would be considered in your treatment plan like your age, weight, lifestyle, habits, etc. More often than not, you will be advised to go on a strict diet and follow a proper exercise routine. This will help get your blood sugars under control majorly. In some cases, medications are also advised for faster and more efficient treatment. You will be working with a team of doctors so that the treatment is holistic with no stones left unturned. Also know about sugar in urine test.
How to reverse prediabetes
Once you recognize the signs and symptoms of prediabetes and get it checked, it would be pertinent to work towards reversal of diabetes before it turns into a complete diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. Since T2D is a more permanent condition that is harder to manage and treat, here is how you can reverse the diagnosis:
- Eat healthily – Reduce high-calorie and fat intake and consume foods with more fiber, fresh fruits, and vegetables. Choose whole grains over refined grains. Avoid the intake of sugary foods and beverages
- Exercise regularly – About 45-50 minutes of exercise can help the body become faster in metabolism and can improve insulin sensitivity. It can also help the body burn the excess sugar in the bloodstream
- Quit smoking and drinking alcohol – Smoking can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The excessive consumption of alcohol can also result in more strain on the liver and kidneys
- Medication – If your doctors feel, starting medications to manage the symptoms of prediabetes can be a good idea. This can help get the levels under control at an early stage. Also know about reversing type 2 diabetes.
Yes, prediabetes can come unannounced and it can get overwhelming, however, if you make yourself aware of the signs and symptoms to look out for, you may avoid a potential chronic diagnosis. Ensure that you are keeping your weight under control and are drinking a lot of water. Exercise and physical activity also help in the most efficient use of insulin in the blood. Yoga and certain asanas are scientifically known to increase the production of insulin in the body. Become aware and use the knowledge to your advantage to beat this deadly disease that has taken a toll on the world. Also know about pre diabetes levels.
What foods to avoid if you are prediabetic?
Prediabetes is a condition where the blood sugar levels are high but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. It is important to avoid foods that might spike sugar levels during this time. A prediabetic should avoid foods that have a high glycemic index. Food items like cookies, pastries, doughnuts, refined carbohydrates like white bread, pasta, burgers, fried food, and beverages like fruit juice, flavored coffee, cocktails, etc. should be avoided. Processed food items are also highly to be avoided by a prediabetic.
What should Prediabetics eat for breakfast?
There are many nutritious breakfast options for prediabetics that help to control blood sugar level. Some of these breakfast recipes are scrambled eggs, peanut butter oatmeal, cereal with berries and yogurt, low carbs smoothie, fruit and nut bowl, cottage cheese and tofu, etc. Being a prediabetic your breakfast must include vegetables rich in fiber starches and high protein food items like chicken, fish, and pork, etc. These foods help to maintain a controlled blood sugar level.
Can walking reverse prediabetes?
Being physically active consistently along with consuming a balanced diet can easily reverse prediabetes. Simple exercises like walking for 30 minutes daily can speed up your process of reversing prediabetes. You can gain control over your sugar levels by starting to walk briskly for a few minutes daily during the initial days and gradually increasing the duration.
How to know the prediabetes level?
The prediabetes level can be measured via a fasting blood test or an HbA1c test. For the fasting test, any reading between 100-125mg/dL can be considered prediabetic. Considering the HbA1c test, a percentage between 5.7-6.4% is diagnosed as prediabetic. If you are at the prediabetic level, it will be important for you to maintain certain precautions so that it does not turn into a full-blown diagnosis.
This website's content is provided only for educational reasons and is not meant to be a replacement for professional medical advice. Due to individual differences, the reader should contact their physician to decide whether the material is applicable to their case.