Pre-Diabetes – Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment

Pre-diabetes is a health condition where your body’s cells begin to resist insulin. In this case, glucose continues to circulate in your blood instead of your body cells taking it up and using it to generate energy. As a result of glucose not being used by your body cells, sugar levels become elevated. In a normal situation, any glucose contained in the food you eat is taken up by the blood from where it is removed into your body cells with help of insulin produced by the pancreas.

Your body has its own elaborate mechanism of controlling various processes. In the case of normal glucose levels, your body relies on three interrelated processes. It relies on glucose production in the liver, the uptake and utilization of the produced glucose by your body cells with help of insulin from the pancreas and the production of insulin by the pancreas. Note that your pancreas can only be triggered to produce the necessary insulin by the presence of glucose in your blood. This is why it is very necessary to have normal glucose levels in your blood. Any disruption of this process leads to build up of glucose in the blood.

The insulin produced by the pancreas plays vital roles; it increases the rate of transporting glucose from the blood into particular body cells, particularly into cells forming striated muscles, fat cells and fibroblasts. Insulin is also crucial in the formation of amino acids and glycogen in the liver, formation of triglycerides from glucose, in the synthesis of nucleic acid/proteins and in the transportation of amino acids.

Pre-diabetes is in most cases medically referred to as the grey area, a period between normal blood sugar levels and proper diabetes. You stand a high risk of developing Type-2 diabetes once in the grey area. In addition, you stand a risk of developing cardiovascular complications. According to research conducted in the US involving individuals of ages between 40 and 70 diagnosed with pre-diabetes, 25% proceeded to develop Type-2 diabetes; a clear indication that pre-diabetes is a precursor to Type-2 diabetes. Pre-diabetes currently affects over 50 million US citizens, in effect being termed America’s largest healthcare epidemic.

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Signs & Symptoms of Pre Diabetes

On its own, pre-diabetes does not present any signs or symptoms. Instead, you are encouraged to be on the look out for the signs and symptoms associated with Type-2 diabetes. Constant hunger, unexplained weight loss/weight gain, general body fatigue, blurred vision, slow healing of wounds/cuts, loss of sensitivity in hands/feet, recurring gum/skin infections, recurring vaginal infections and bladder infections should inform you of the possibility of either having Type-2 diabetes or in the pre-diabetes stage.

Causes of Pre Diabetes

Although pre-diabetes causes vary, there are risk factors associated with its occurrence. Coming from a family with a history of diabetes puts you at great risk of developing pre-diabetes and Type-2 diabetes. Being obese or overweight is also a risk. Other causes of the condition include sleep disorders, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, low levels of healthy cholesterol and high triglyceride levels. Your body’s resistance to insulin for one reason or another is also a cause of pre-diabetes. A closer look at some of these causes reveals one thing; they impact negatively on the functions of both the pancreas and thyroid gland.

Diagnosis of Pre Diabetes

Diagnosis of pre-diabetes is usually through blood tests of which three are very important. According to World Health Organization (WHO) criteria, a normal Fasting blood sugar (glucose) level test should read between 110 and 125 mg/dl. Any reading above this is a clear indication of either pre-diabetes or Type-2 diabetes. You can also be subjected to a two-hour glucose tolerance test where you ingest the standard 75Gm glucose solution. An ideal test reading should be between 140 and 199 mg/dl. Test reading above this serves as an indication of pre-diabetes or diabetes proper. The last test you may undergo is the Glycated hemoglobin test, which should give an ideal reading of between 5.7 and 6.4%. Readings in excess of this is a diagnosis of diabetes.

Screening Programs

Different jurisdictions have developed screening programs aimed at detecting pre-diabetes amongst their populations. It is always beneficial to attend such screening to be able to know your diabetes status. WHO recommends Fasting plasma glucose screening for those aged between 30 and 45 years, which should be repeated after every three years. Most at risk individuals should however be screened earlier. You are at risk in case you have a parent or sibling already diagnosed with either pre-diabetes or Type-2 diabetes, you have high levels of triglycerides, you are obese or overweight with body mass index exceeding 25 and in case you have been diagnosed with any vascular disease.

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Because of the high possibility of pre-diabetes progressing to full blown Type-2 diabetes, there is a great need to prevent such development. Prevention is usually aimed at delaying the on-set of Type-2 diabetes, in effect preserving the function of beta cells in the body. According to both WHO and the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE), positive lifestyle modifications are the most effective ways of preventing progression from pre-diabetes to Type-2 diabetes. Such include healthy meals that contain low fat, low sugar and low salt and regular physical exercises.


Being diagnosed with pre-diabetes leads to experiences associated with Type-2 diabetes experience. This is however on a limited scale. Although you may not experience full-scale complications, you stand a high risk of developing such complications as diabetic eye disease, nerve damage, diabetic kidney disease and vascular diseases. Proper management of your health is therefore very important. Intensive weight loss in case you are obese or overweight can improve glucose tolerance in a great way. Coming from a high risk background should prompt you to participate in pre-diabetes screening programs to be able to undertake effective management of condition.

Like with Type-2 diabetes, various prescription medications are available. Such are in most cases prescribed to those diagnosed with pre-diabetes and show high possibilities of developing Type-2 diabetes. Such medications include Metformin, thiazolidinediones and receptor agonists amongst other medications. Because of the adverse effects of these medications, it is important that you stick to a healthy lifestyle. Just like with managing Type-2 diabetes, you can effectively manage a pre-diabetes condition and continue living a healthy and fruitful life.

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