What Is Prediabetes?
Prediabetes is a condition in which your blood sugar is higher than normal, but not as high as it would be if you had diabetes. If you have prediabetes, you may have no symptoms. However, you are at higher risk for developing diabetes. If you get diabetes, you will need to manage it with steps such as taking your blood sugar multiple times a day and using medications, possibly including insulin injections, if you want to prevent complications.
Normal and Blood Glucose (Sugar)
Many of the foods you eat contain types of carbohydrates called sugars and starches. During the digestive process, your body breaks down sugars and starches from food and turns them into a specific type of sugar called glucose. Glucose goes into the blood stream and your body uses it for energy. Extra glucose, from eating more carbohydrates than you need, is eventually stored as body fat.
Your body needs insulin to properly use glucose when your blood glucose levels rise after a meal. Insulin is produced by the beta cells in your pancreas, and is released into your bloodstream when your blood sugar levels are high. Insulin has three main functions.
It helps lower blood glucose levels by helping fat, muscle, and liver cells absorb glucose from the bloodstream.
It helps the liver and muscles to store extra glucose that is not needed at this moment. This storage form of glucose is called glycogen.
It helps lower blood glucose levels by lowering the amount of glucose your liver produces.
Impaired Blood Sugar Control
Prediabetes is a disease of insulin resistance and impaired blood sugar regulation. Insulin resistance, leading to prediabetes and a higher risk for diabetes, is often related to obesity, physical inactivity, aging, and other factors including inadequate sleep, certain medications, and smoking.
How Many People Have Prediabetes?
Prediabetes is increasingly common. More than 1 out of 3 American adults have it, totaling about 84 million, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Of these, nearly 9 out of 10 do not know they have it, making them more vulnerable to diabetes since they are not under care for their prediabetes.
These are some differences between prediabetes symptoms and diabetes symptoms.
Prediabetes has lower blood sugar levels than diabetes, although they are still above normal due to insulin resistance.
Prediabetes typically has no symptoms, while diabetes can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, frequent trips to the bathroom, blurry vision, and extreme thirst.
Untreated prediabetes can lead to diabetes, while untreated diabetes can lead to complications such as kidney disease, eye diseases, heart disease, and stroke.
There are other types of diabetes as well. Gestational diabetes occurs in nearly 10% of pregnancies and usually shows up around 24 weeks. It happens when the hormones produced by the fetal placenta block the action of insulin in your body. It is a risk factor for later type 2 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is also known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes. This type of diabetes is genetic, and it often shows up in childhood or during adolescence. It is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the beta cells of the pancreas so they cannot produce insulin.
What Are the Prediabetes Symptoms?
There may be no symptoms of prediabetes if you have it. However, some individuals who are at risk for diabetes develop acanthosis nigricans. This is a visible condition that can be a sign of progression from prediabetes to diabetes. It shows itself as thickened, darkened patches of skin, typically in creases such as the back of your neck or armpits.
Because you may not have easily identifiable symptoms or signs of prediabetes, it is good to know whether you are at risk for it so that you can make good decisions about any next steps. You may want to take a hard look at your lifestyle to see if you can make any improvements, and ask your healthcare provider about getting tested if you are concerned. The test below will tell you if you are at risk: