What is Prediabetes? Meaning, Symptoms, and Management

Dr. Pakhi Sharma (MBBS)
Dr. Pakhi Sharma (MBBS)

General Physician | 6+ years

what is pre diabetes
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You must be familiar with the term diabetes. However, is there a condition in which your blood sugars are high but you are not diagnosed as a diabetic yet? Yes, this condition can happen and is known as prediabetes.

What is prediabetes? Do people with prediabetes have the same symptoms as those with diabetes? Are they at a greater risk for heart disease and stroke? Let’s understand the condition in detail and answer these questions.

Contents:
  • blog_single_bullet_icon
    What is Prediabetes?
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    What Causes Prediabetes?
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    What are Prediabetes Symptoms?
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    How is Prediabetes Diagnosed?
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    Prediabetes Treatment and Reversal
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    Don’t Have Time To Read?
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    FAQs
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Prediabetes: Meaning?

Prediabetes is a condition where your blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not enough to qualify as diabetes. Generally, a blood glucose level between 100 to 125 mg/dL on the fasting blood sugar test is regarded as the prediabetic range. Prediabetes increases your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 50%. It is a stage that precedes diabetes. Most people who are prediabetic may not know about it as it rarely causes any symptoms. Prediabetes also puts you at a risk of heart diseases and stroke.

The good news is that prediabetes is reversible. Adopting a healthy lifestyle can help you maintain normal blood sugar levels. Staying physically active and having a balanced nutritious diet can help bring your sugar levels back to normal. Let’s take a deeper look at prediabetes.

What Causes Prediabetes?

The exact cause of prediabetes is not known. It may occur as the result of an imbalance of insulin in the body. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas and it helps regulate your blood sugar levels. Your cells develop resistance to the action of insulin, in response to which your pancreas increases its production. Eventually, your pancreas becomes unable to meet the increased demand of insulin and as a result, your blood glucose level rises. Some factors that increase the risk of developing prediabetes include:
  • Having a family history of diabetes
  • Being physically inactive 
  • Being overweight (a BMI or Body Mass Index between 25 to 29.9)
  • Being 45 years or older
  • Having a history of gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy)
  • Having polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS, a hormonal disorder that affects women in their reproductive age and causes irregular periods)
  • Having sleep problems such as obstructive sleep apnea (a sleep disorder that involves repetitive episodes of complete or partial blockage of your airways during sleep)
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What are Prediabetes Symptoms?

Prediabetes usually does not show any symptoms, until the condition has progressed to diabetes. Some individuals with prediabetes may show symptoms such as a darkening of skin in the armpit, elbows, knees, back, and/or sides of the neck. This condition is known as acanthosis nigricans.

The following symptoms may indicate that prediabetes has progressed to diabetes, and warrant immediate medical attention:

  • Excessive thirst throughout the day (polydipsia)
  • Increased urination (polyuria)
  • Constant hunger (polyphagia)
  • Fatigue or tiredness
  • Blurred vision
  • Wounds or cuts that heal slowly

How is Prediabetes Diagnosed?

As prediabetes is usually asymptomatic, regular check-up with your doctor is the only way to detect the condition. Your doctor will perform the following tests to determine if you have prediabetes.

Glycated Hemoglobin A1C Test (HbA1c test or A1c test)

Glycated hemoglobin is a form of hemoglobin that is chemically linked to sugar. The HbA1c test helps determine your average blood glucose levels for the past 2 to 3 months. An HbA1c level of 5.7% or below is considered normal and a level between 5.7 to 6.4% is considered as the prediabetic range. 

Fasting Blood Sugar Test

This test measures your blood glucose levels after overnight (about 8 to 12 hours) fasting. A fasting blood sugar level of 99 mg/dL is normal, the prediabetes blood sugar level is 100 to 125 mg/dL, and blood sugar levels of 126 mg/dL or higher indicates that you have diabetes.

Glucose Tolerance Test

This test measures your blood glucose levels with overnight fasting and after you have a glucose drink. Your blood sugar levels will be checked at periodic intervals (in 1, 2, and 3 hours). A blood glucose level between 140 to 199 mg/dL indicates that you have prediabetes. If you have one or more risk factors of developing diabetes, it is better to undergo routine screenings once a year to detect prediabetes and avoid the risk of Type 2 diabetes.

Prediabetes Treatment and Reversal

Prediabetes can be managed and reversed by adopting a healthy lifestyle. By making simple changes in your lifestyle, you will be able to control your blood sugar levels effectively. The following measures will help you control and reverse prediabetes.

Healthy Diet

You can include more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and low-fat dairy in your meals. Also, try to have smaller portions of food multiple times a day instead of large meals at once. Focus on a diet that is nutritious and high in fiber while being low in fat, calories, and sugar. Also, make sure that you drink plenty of water throughout the day.

Weight Management

Maintaining a healthy weight is necessary to control your blood sugar levels. If you are overweight, even a minor change in your body weight can lead to a considerable change in your blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes. Having a healthy diet plan and staying active can help you manage your weight.

Regular Exercise

Make sure to stay active and exercise regularly. Other than maintaining a healthy weight, it also helps you control your blood sugar levels and use insulin more effectively in the body. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week. 

Proper Sleep

Good quality sleep is crucial for every aspect of your health and well being. Sleep deprivation can worsen insulin resistance, making it difficult to control your blood sugar levels. It can also cause mood swings, reduce your productivity, and make it hard for you to follow a healthy lifestyle and lose weight. ]Stress Control In order to manage your blood sugar levels within a normal range, it is important that you take necessary steps to manage stress. Stress can disrupt your sleep, and make it difficult to follow your diet plans and lose weight, increasing the risk of developing diabetes. You can choose mind relaxing activities such as yoga and meditation, spend time in nature or with family, or consult a mental healthcare professional for tips to keep your mind stress free.<

Regular Blood Sugar Monitoring

Regular blood sugar monitoring is a key factor in preventing prediabetes from progressing to diabetes. If you are at a risk of developing diabetes, monitoring your blood sugar levels regularly can help you detect any abnormal changes and take action early. 

Medications

If you are at a high risk of developing diabetes and lifestyle changes are not improving elevated blood sugar levels, your healthcare provider may prescribe medications such as metformin to control your blood sugar levels. Metformin helps your body to make less glucose and to use insulin more effectively.You may also be asked to take medications to control cholesterol and high blood pressure levels.  

Don’t Have Time To Read?

  • Prediabetes is a condition where your blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not enough to qualify as diabetes. Prediabetes increases your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 50%. 
  • The exact cause of prediabetes is not known. It may occur as the result of the imbalance of insulin in the body. 
  • Some factors that increase the risk of prediabetes include, having a family history of diabetes, being overweight, and having hormonal disorders such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
  • Prediabetes is a stage that precedes diabetes. Most people who are prediabetic may not know about it as it is mostly asymptomatic. In some individuals, prediabetes may cause symptoms such as dark, thick, velvety patches of skin in areas with creases, such as elbows, armpits, neck, knees, etc. 
  • Prediabetes can be diagnosed through blood tests such as glycated hemoglobin A1c test (HbA1c test, fasting blood sugar test, and glucose tolerance test.
  • Prediabetes can be treated and reversed by adopting lifestyle changes. It includes following a healthy diet, regular exercise, maintaining an ideal weight, proper sleep, stress reduction, and regular blood sugar monitoring. Some individuals may require medications to treat prediabetes and reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
  • The time taken to reverse prediabetes differs from person to person depending on their overall health and the present risk factors of developing diabetes. It may take a few weeks to a few years.
  • Use the Phable Care App to consult India’s leading diabetologists, order medicines, book lab tests, integrate blood sugar monitoring and other devices to get real-time remote care from the comfort of your home. Also, check out our Diabetes Management program which provides ‎360º care. Let’s treat diabetes together.

Frequently Asked Questions

By taking the right measures, it is possible to manage and reverse prediabetes. Follow a healthy diet, exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight, take steps to manage your stress, and get enough sleep. However, you should monitor your blood sugar levels regularly to make sure they are under control.

By following a healthy lifestyle and maintaining a healthy weight, you can reverse prediabetes and prevent its progression to Type 2 diabetes. However, this effect is not permanent. If you do not maintain a healthy diet and active lifestyle, and your weight increases beyond a healthy range, prediabetes and the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes may come back again. 

If you are diagnosed with prediabetes, make sure that you adopt a healthy lifestyle with immediate effect. It includes following a healthy diet, regular exercise, maintaining an ideal weight, proper sleep, and stress reduction. Consult a doctor and monitor your blood sugar levels regularly.

If you are prediabetic, avoid foods that are high in sugar, carbohydrates, and unhealthy fats. Stay away from foods such as pastries or candies, sources of refined carbohydrates such as white bread or pasta, and unhealthy fats such as butter. Focus on a diet that is nutritious, high in fiber, and low in fat, carbohydrates, calories, and sugar. 

The time taken to reverse prediabetes would differ from person to person depending on their overall health and present risk factors of developing diabetes. However, by adhering to a healthy lifestyle, you can reverse prediabetes within a time period of a few weeks to a few years and prevent it from developing into Type 2 diabetes.

Losing excess weight is crucial to the management of diabetes, as being overweight increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Losing even 5 to 7% of your body weight, in combination with other lifestyle measures, can help you reverse prediabetes and reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes.

Dr. Pakhi Sharma
Dr. Pakhi Sharma, MBBS
(General physician, 6+ years)
An expert in obstetrics and medical emergencies, Dr. Pakhi Sharma, an alumni of Sri Devaraj Urs University of Higher Education and Research Centre, is a general physician working at Phablecare. She has 6+ years of work experience spread across gynaecology and obstetrics, family medicine, and medical emergencies at renowned hospitals and clinics.

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