We know that diabetes is a major problem in the U.S., and prediabetes is not less of an issue — but it’s also a wakeup call that can jolt someone into action. Prediabetes symptoms may go unnoticed, but the first sign is that you no longer have normal blood sugar levels. A prediabetes diagnosis is a warning sign to people who will develop diabetes if they don’t make serious lifestyle changes.
The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention National Diabetes Statistics Report says that 37 percent of United States adults older than 20 years and 51 percent of those older than 65 exhibit prediabetes symptoms. When applied to the entire population in 2012, these estimates suggest that there are nearly 86 million adults with prediabetes in the United States alone. Furthermore, the International Diabetes Federation projects an increase in prevalence of prediabetes to 471 million globally by 2035.
Luckily, research shows that lifestyle intervention may decrease the percentage of prediabetic patients who develop diabetes from 37 percent to 20 percent.
What Is Prediabetes?
Prediabetes is a condition defined as having blood glucose levels above normal but below the defined threshold of diabetes. It’s considered to be an at-risk state, with high chances of developing diabetes. Without intervention, people with prediabetes are likely to become type 2 diabetics within 10 years. For people with prediabetes, the long-term damage to the heart and circulatory system that is associated with diabetes may have started already.
There are several ways to diagnose prediabetes. The A1C test measures your average blood glucose for the past two to three months. Diabetes is diagnosed at an A1C of greater than or equal to 6.5 percent; for prediabetes, the A1C is between 5.7 percent and 6.4 percent.
Fasting plasma glucose is a test that checks your fasting (not eating or drinking for at least 8 hours) blood glucose levels. Diabetes is diagnosed at fasting blood glucose of greater than or equal to 126 milligrams per deciliter; for prediabetes, fasting glucose is between 100 to 125 milligrams per deciliter.
The oral glucose tolerance test is a two-hour test that checks your blood glucose levels before and two hours after you drink a specific sweet drink. It explains how your body processes glucose. Diabetes is diagnosed at a two-hour blood glucose of greater than or equal to 200 milligrams per deciliter; for prediabetes, the two-hour blood glucose is between 140 and 199 milligrams per deciliter.
Prediabetes is not a new condition; it’s a new name for a disorder that doctors have known about for a long time. A prediabetes diagnosis is a clear way of explaining that a person has higher than normal blood glucose levels and is in danger of developing diabetes, plus at a higher risk of chronic kidney disease and heart disease. When people understand that they ‘e prediabetic, they’re more likely to make lifestyle changes that can reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes, which is why noticing prediabetes symptoms is vital.
The rationale behind the treatment of prediabetes is the prevention of diabetes development, prevention of consequences of diabetes and prevention of the consequences of prediabetes itself. Several research studies have displayed the success of interventions designed for treatment of prediabetes with sustained reduction in the incidence of diabetes.
There are often no prediabetes symptoms and signs, and the condition can go unnoticed. People with prediabetes may experience some diabetes symptoms, such as feeling very thirsty, urinating often, feeling fatigued, having blurred vision and urinating often.
Sometimes people with prediabetes develop acanthosis nigricans, a skin condition that causes one or more areas of the skin to darken and thicken. Evidence shows that acanthosis nigricans is often associated with hyperinsulinemia and may indicate an increased risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus.
Some people with prediabetes experience reactive hypoglycemia two to three hours after a meal. Hypoglycemia is also called low blood glucose or low blood sugar. It occurs when the level of glucose in your blood drops below normal. For many people with diabetes, that means a level of 70 milligrams per deciliter or less. Hypoglycemia is one of the more common prediabetes symptoms and a sign of impaired insulin metabolism indicative of impending development of diabetes.
Hypoglycemia symptoms tend to come on quickly, and they can vary from person to person — but common symptoms include feeling shaky or jittery; sweating; feeling sleepy or tired; becoming pale, confused and hungry; and feeling dizzy or lightheaded.
Several studies have shown an association of increased risk of chronic kidney disease with prediabetes. Research shows that many people with prediabetes or diabetes were found to have state 3 or 4 chronic kidney disease. A 2016 study published in Diabetes Medicine found that prediabetes is modestly associated with an increase in chronic kidney disease risk. Chronic kidney disease screening among people with prediabetes and aggressive management of prediabetes in those with chronic kidney disease are recommended by researchers.