Symptoms of prediabetes are subtle. Unlike people who have full-blown diabetes, individuals with prediabetes are usually diagnosed incidentally during screening.
Since prediabetes is not considered a disease, people usually ignore it and later develop full-blown diabetes.
However, some symptoms of diabetes are so common that they may be noticed as early as prediabetes. Tingling and burning feet may develop before a person is labeled diabetic and are usually among the first few symptoms that compel a person to seek advice.
Other symptoms may be associated with prediabetes but are actually not due to prediabetes. These may include joint pain and weight loss.
However, anxiety and symptoms of prostatic enlargement or urinary tract infection can alert a person to check blood sugars.
Most patients are incidentally diagnosed without having any symptoms.
What is Prediabetes?
Prediabetes is defined as having high blood sugar levels but these are not as high as in type 2 diabetes.
This is why it is classified as an intermediate stage between normal and type 2 diabetes. This condition is not that critical but it is a warning sign because children and adults with prediabetes are at a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
This stage often goes unnoticed but if you have been diagnosed with prediabetes then you might have come halfway your way toward the other complications related to diabetes such as heart disease, and damage to nerves, blood vessels, and kidneys.
However, the progression to diabetes is still in your hands and your efforts combined with lifestyle changes can cause a good delay or can even revert the condition.
The same lifestyle changes that can help prevent type 2 diabetes in adults may also help restore normal blood sugar levels in the prediabetic population.
Prediabetes is diagnosed based on the following criteria:
- Fasting plasma glucose: 100 to 125 mg/dl
- 2 hours post-prandial glucose: 140 to 199 mg/dl
- A1C (Glycated hemoglobin): 5.7 to 6.4%
All readings above these are diabetic ranges.
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What are the causes of prediabetes?
Prediabetes occurs when insulin resistance develops and your body’s insulin does not work as well as it should. Insulin is a hormone that assists the body’s cells in utilizing glucose from your blood.
When insulin fails to function properly, too much glucose accumulates in the blood. This causes increased glucose levels in the blood signaling prediabetes. Type 2 diabetes develops if these levels are sufficiently high.
Some factors that contribute to insulin resistance are:
Obesity, and excess body fat particularly in the abdomen and around the organs, known as visceral fat, is a major cause of insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance has been linked to waist measurements of:
- 40 inches or greater for men
- 35 inches or greater for women
Even if your body mass index (BMI) is within the normal range but you have a higher waist circumference then you are at risk of developing prediabetes.
Belly fat produces hormones and other substances in the body that can contribute to chronic, or long-term, inflammation.
Insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease may all be caused by inflammation.
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Signs and Symptoms of Prediabetes:
The common symptoms of prediabetes are quite similar to those present in diabetes. However, in prediabetes, you need to closely monitor the small changes in your blood glucose levels and immediately go to your healthcare provider for a diagnostic test.
These tests can help in early diagnosis so you can make changes to improve your symptoms. If this diagnostic stage is missed, you will most probably end up with type 2 diabetes.
You have a high A1C blood test result.
The A1C blood test, also known as the hemoglobin A1C or HbA1c test, is a standard blood test that measures your blood sugar levels over the previous three months. The test is routinely used to monitor your risk of developing prediabetes or diabetes.
A1C test results are expressed as a percentage. The greater the percentage, the higher your blood sugar levels were in the previous 90 days.
- Less than 5.7% is considered normal.
- 5.7% to 6.4% have prediabetes.
- Diabetes is an A1C of 6.5% or greater
If you have prediabetes or diabetes, your doctor will check your A1C levels several times a year to see how well the disease is controlled.
Excessive thirst can also indicate prediabetes. When there is excess sugar in the blood, the kidneys try to eliminate it. When the sugar is excreted it also takes water.
The more water is removed, the more you feel thirsty. Also, when your blood sugar is high, a signal is sent to the brain which then initiates the feeling of thirst.
High blood sugar from prediabetes causes you to want to drink more fluid to help dilute the sugar concentration in the body.
People with prediabetes also have frequent urination, known as polyuria, and as a result, the body wants to replace the lost fluid, which activates the thirst center in the brain.
Some patients may notice dry mouth and thirst as a result of anxiety, medications like TCAs and antiallergics, and respiratory tract infections that compel them to check their blood glucose. Prediabetes may be diagnosed at this stage in some patients.
Your vision is occasionally hazy:
When blood glucose levels rise, excess glucose gets accumulated in the lens of the eye which impairs normal vision.
This might cause blurred vision because light cannot pass easily from the front of the eye to the brain where vision signals are read.
High sugar levels can also cause swelling of the eye lens, preventing light from focusing on your retina, or the nerves that interpret light rays.
It’s similar to when your phone’s camera when is foggy and can’t focus before taking a picture, and the resulting picture is blue if not adjusted in time.
The blurring of vision is usually ignored by most people as it is not very alarming. However, it may be one of the earliest symptoms of prediabetes.
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High blood sugar levels greatly interfere with the normal functioning of the kidneys. There is constant pressure to eliminate the excess sugar through urine to maintain a normal concentration of sugar in the blood.
This leads to over-functioning of the kidneys which causes polyuria (excessive urination).
High blood sugar in the urine can cause the kidneys to pull more fluid out of the blood, resulting in more urine being created and delivered to the bladder where it is stored.
Excessive urination can be caused by water pills (diuretics), and excessive water intake, and is usually noticed in winter.
However, excessive urination can be an early symptom of prediabetes as well.
You’re constantly hungry.
In prediabetes, the normal absorption and metabolism of sugar are highly inefficient, that’s why whatever you eat, its nutrients particularly carbohydrates which are the primary source of energy, do not absorb and the body does not receive glucose.
As a result, you feel unusually hungry and have an increased desire to eat. The brain signals to eat more to consume more energy-containing foods when there is a lack of nutrient energy and you never feel satiated even if you’ve eaten a lot of food.
Weight changes are usually seen in people with diabetes. However, before a person develops diabetes, he/she develops a state of hyperinsulinemia.
High insulin levels in the blood make a person more hungry. People may even develop symptoms of hypoglycemia like tremors, shakiness, palpitations (feeling of one’s own heartbeat), hunger, and sweating.
At this stage, if a person is not diagnosed with insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia, he may enter a vicious cycle of hunger, overeating, weight gain, and ultimately diabetes.
Fatigue and Exhaustion:
Although, you can experience fatigue in a number of disorders. however, in prediabetes, the blood sugars are not used properly and the cells remain deprived of energy which causes the symptoms of fatigue.
Your body lacks the fuel to do any work and you struggle even to perform the daily tasks.
Fatigue is a vague term and may be associated with prediabetes. However, fatigue is one symptom when a person seeks medical advice.
Fatigue can make a person avoid physical activities, eat nutritious foods especially beverages to overcome fatigue, and increase anxiety levels all of which can cause blood sugars to spike.
The symptoms of prediabetes are different among people, but all of them are the same as those of diabetes. Looking for your symptoms and getting diagnosed early can slow or even stop the progression to type 2 diabetes.
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