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Prediabetes

You have been diagnosed with prediabetes. This means that the level of sugar (glucose) in your blood is too high. If you have prediabetes, you are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is diagnosed when the level of glucose in the blood reaches a certain high level. With prediabetes, it hasn’t yet reached this point. But it is higher than normal. It is vital to make lifestyle changes to lower your blood sugar, improve your health, and prevent diabetes. This sheet will tell you more.

Normal amount of glucose in the bloodstream

Too much glucose in the bloodstream

Why Worry About Prediabetes?

Diabetes is a disease where the body’s cells have trouble using glucose in the blood for energy. With prediabetes, the cells have started to have trouble using glucose. As a result, too much glucose stays in the blood. This can affect how your heart and blood vessels work. And, without changes in diet and lifestyle, the problem can get worse. Type 2 diabetes can develop. Once you have type 2 diabetes, it is chronic (ongoing) and needs to be managed for the rest of your life. Diabetes can harm the body and your health. It can damage organs, such as your eyes and kidneys. It makes you more likely to have heart disease. And it can damage nerves and blood vessels.

Risk Factors For Prediabetes

The exact cause of prediabetes is not clear. But certain risk factors make a person more likely to have it. These include:

  • A family history of type 2 diabetes

  • Being overweight

  • Being over age 40

  • Having had gestational diabetes

  • Not being physically active

  • Being African American, Asian-American, Hispanic, Native American, or Pacific Islander

Diagnosing Prediabetes

Prediabetes has no symptoms. The only way to find it is with a blood test. You may have had one or both of these blood tests:

  • Fasting glucose test. Blood is taken and tested after you have fasted (not eaten) for 8 hours. A normal test result is 99 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or lower. Prediabetes is 100-125 mg/dL. Diabetes is 126 mg/dL and higher.

  • Glucose tolerance test. Your blood sugar is measured before and after you drink a very sugary liquid. A normal test result is 139 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or lower. Prediabetes is 140-199 mg/dL. Diabetes is 200 mg/dL and higher.

Treating Prediabetes

The best way to treat prediabetes is to lose extra weight and be more physically active. These changes help the body’s cells use blood sugar better. Even a small amount of weight loss can help. Work with your healthcare provider to make a plan to eat well and be more active. Keep in mind that small changes can add up. Other changes in your lifestyle may make you less likely to develop diabetes. Your healthcare provider can talk with you about these.

Follow-Up

If it is untreated, prediabetes can turn into diabetes. This is a serious health condition. Take steps to stop this from happening. Follow the treatment plan you have been given. You may have your blood glucose tested again in about 12-18 months.

Symptoms of Diabetes

Most people do not have symptoms. But let your healthcare provider know if you have any of the following:

  • Always feel very tired

  • Feel very thirsty or hungry much of the time

  • Have to urinate often

  • Lose weight for no reason

  • Feel numbness or tingling in your fingers or toes

  • Have cuts or bruises that don’t seem to heal

  • Have blurry vision

Online Medical Reviewer: Fleischer, Norman, MD, FACP
Online Medical Reviewer: Robbins, David C, MD
Last Review Date: 7/13/2011
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