prediabetes – definition, symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment

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Pre-diabetes is usually a pre-cursor to diabetes if not treated on time. It is a condition in which your blood glucose levels (blood sugar levels) are higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.  This condition occurs when your body doesn’t make or use insulin properly. This causes too much glucose to build up in the blood stream and this can be harmful to your body over a period of time. Usually the blood sugar range for pre-diabetes is 100-125 milligrams per decilitre (mg/dl). A large percentage of adults over 20 have pre-diabetes and about 10-23 per cent of people go on to develop type 2 diabetes within 5 years. Treating it in the pre-diabetes stage can prevent more serious health issues like type 2 diabetes, problems with your heart, blood vessels, kidneys and eyes.

Diabetes usually develops gradually, so when you are in the pre-diabetes stage you may not notice any symptoms. However some pre-diabetes symptoms you might notice are:

  • You feel thirstier than usual
  • You tend to pee a lot
  • Your vision is blurry
  • You feel extremely tired
  • You feel hungrier than normal
  • You are losing weight, despite eating more

All these symptoms are usually indicative of diabetes so if you are in the pre-diabetes stage you might notice them.


Pre-diabetes occurs when the insulin in your body does not work as well as it should. Insulin is what helps the cells in your body utilize the glucose from the blood and the improper functioning of insulin leads to a build-up of glucose in the blood. High glucose levels can damage your nerves and blood vessels. You are at a risk of developing pre-diabetes if you are

  • Obese or overweight
  • It is hereditary- you have a parent or sibling diagnosed with the same
  • You were diagnosed with gestational diabetes during your pregnancy or had a baby weighing more than 9 pounds at birth
  • Your blood pressure levels are high
  • Your HDL or “good cholesterol” level is low and your triglyceride levels or blood fat levels are higher than 250mg per dl
  • You have a history of PCOS or Poly-Cystic Ovary Syndrome
  • You don’t get enough exercise
  • People over 45 years of age are at risk
  • Have an increased waist size-40 inches if you are a man and 35 inches if you are a woman
  • Have sleep apena or other sleep disorders

Certain lifestyle factors also put you at a risk of being diagnosed with pre-diabetes in some people

  • High levels of stress
  • Smoking
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Regular consumption of sugary drinks

Some studies found that people who drank sugary drinks on a regular basis faced an increased risk of metabolic diseases such as high blood pressure and have levels of glucose and fat in the blood. These conditions can lead to pre-diabetes and diabetes. People who have an inactive lifestyle are also at the risk of consuming too many calories without burning them.


To determine if you are in the pre-diabetic stage your doctor may prescribe a fasting blood sugar test. This is a blood test to check your blood sugar level before you eat in the morning.

The sugar level chart for this test is:

  • Normal- between 70-99 mg per dL
  • Pre-diabetes-between 100 and 125 mg per dL
  • Diabetes- higher than 126 mg per dL

If this test indicates that you have pre-diabetes, your doctor may ask you to do an A1C blood test. Sometimes your doctor may go straight for the A1c blood test and skip the fasting blood sugar test. This test gives the results of your average blood sugar over a period of 3 months. The results for these tests are reported in percentage and the test readings are as follows:

  • Normal- below 5.7%
  • Pre-diabetes- between 5.7% and 6.4%
  • Diabetes- 6.5% or higher

Sometimes doctors may also prescribe a random blood sugar test, which measures the glucose levels in the blood at any given point in the day.


Pre-diabetes is reversible and can even be prevented. Here are some treatments for pre-diabetes

Eat healthy and lose weight

A certified dietician or diabetes educator can help you in creating a food plan that takes into account your preferences and also includes foods that are good for your blood glucose level. The goal is to keep your glucose level in the normal range. If you are overweight, losing weight can delay or prevent diabetes. Weight loss also helps in lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Some diet tips you can consider are:

  • Skip the processed carbs like white bread, potatoes and breakfast cereals and switch to whole grains and whole grain products instead.
  • Replace your sugary beverages with coffee or tea without sugar or just stick to water 
  • Try to eat good fats like the ones found in nuts, seeds, vegetable oils over margarine and fried foods.
  • Nuts, whole grains and poultry are better options than red and processed meat.


Exercise is one of the main recommendations for people diagnosed with pre-diabetes as it helps in reducing your blood glucose level as your body uses it while exercising.  Also your body becomes less insulin resistant as it doesn’t need much insulin to transport glucose. There are also the traditional benefits of exercise like it keeps your heart healthy, it helps you lose weight and it helps you sleep better.

Chose an activity you enjoy, even walking helps. Try to get in at least half an hour a day, five times a week.

Give up smoking- this increases your chances of a heart attack as well as the chances of your pre-diabetes becoming diabetes.


If the doctor feels that you are at the risk of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, after being diagnosed with pre-diabetes he might put you on some medication like Metformin.  This does not allow the liver to make more glucose when your body does not need it.

Pre-diabetes is usually reversible with a regular exercise program and a balanced low sugar diet.

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Shama Sunder

Counsellor Mary Fathima’s explanation is excellent and the information shared is very useful, as most people do not know the test procedure (i.e. test timings and the difference) of th....

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