Prediabetes is a condition in which a person’s blood sugar is chronically elevated, though not so high as to indicate full-blown diabetes. It means that a combination of risk factors is leading you down the path toward type 2 diabetes and all the negative health consequences that entails. By some estimates, type 2 diabetes can shave 10 years off of your life.
The good news is that prediabetes is reversible. The sooner you recognize the problem, the sooner you can turn around some of the risk factors for the disease, such as being overweight or obese, living a sedentary lifestyle, and consuming too much added sugar. There is also a genetic component that you can’t change, but you can still protect yourself by paying strict attention to a healthy diet and exercise regime.
Your doctor should already be testing your blood glucose at your regular checkups, but how can you tell if you are prediabetic throughout the year?
There are some subtle symptoms that together could spell trouble. Some, like #3 and #4, are sneaky and may not appear to be related to prediabetes even though they are. Read on to get proactive about the risk posed by prediabetes.
1. High Blood Pressure
People with high blood pressure are at an increased risk of prediabetes because hypertension forces the heart to work harder to move blood around the body. This in turn makes it more difficult for the body to eliminate excess sugar from the bloodstream.
Hypertension and prediabetes are conditions that exacerbate each other, and studies have shown that having both greatly increases your risk of heart failure.
Unfortunately, both prediabetes and high blood pressure are largely asymptomatic at first. If you know that you have hypertension, you should get serious about preventing prediabetes right away.
2. Blurry Vision
Both prediabetes and full blown diabetes can negatively impact your vision. When blood sugar levels swing wildly from high to low, it can cause fluid to leak into the lens of your eye. That happens because your body has gone into overdrive to pull as much water as possible from cells in order to flush out excess sugar. The effect on your eyes is that they swell and change shape, eventually preventing them from focusing properly.
There are a lot of other potential causes for blurry vision, but if you can link yours with any of the other symptoms on our list, prediabetes could be the culprit.
3. Skin Problems
Sometimes problems on the inside of our bodies manifest on the outside. Prediabetes is known to cause shiny, scaly patches or else dark, velvety patches on the skin, due to increased levels of insulin in the blood.
Prediabetes also begins to compromise blood circulation, which can cause itching in your extremities, especially the legs. Full blown diabetics are at risk of losing a foot due to severely compromised circulation, so you must act fast if you suspect your skin issues are related to prediabetes.
Gout is a form of arthritis that causes sharp uric acid crystals to grow within joint tissue. It is incredibly painful, and may also signal prediabetes.
Once considered a disease of kings (Henry VIII was a famous sufferer), gout often occurs due to a rich and overabundant diet. It tends to affect people who are overweight more frequently, and obesity is also a risk factor for prediabetes.
5. Unexplained Increase in Hunger
Sugar, or glucose, is a fuel source we need to power our bodies. But when we get too much, insulin produced by the pancreas becomes unable to process glucose effectively. That leaves a lot of sugar floating around the blood, where it cannot be used for energy. As a result, you may feel hungry soon after a meal, because your body hasn’t gotten what it needs.
Hunger is usually a good cue to eat more, but in the case of prediabetes, it won’t help the problem. It is better to drink some water to help flush extra sugar out in your urine, and partake in gentle exercise to improve your body’s insulin sensitivity.
6. Extreme Fatigue
The same way that excess blood sugar can lead to hunger it can also lead to exhaustion. When your body isn’t getting the fuel it needs, despite eating full meals, you are bound to feel tired. This symptom may exacerbate other risk factors for prediabetes as well, because of course when you are drained and exhausted you feel the need to rest.
But when the fatigue is chronic, you may scale back on the physical activity necessary to maintain a healthy body weight. It’s also common to rely on fatty convenience foods when you feel too tired to cook (not the mention do the dishes afterwards). Sedentary lifestyle and poor diet are the two biggest risk factors for prediabetes.
7. Increased Thirst
Increased thirst, especially after a meal, can signal prediabetes. Your body has begun to work very hard to eliminate excess glucose from the bloodstream, and one of the ways it does this is by diluting the blood and flushing unprocessed sugar out via urine. To get that water, your body will often pull it from surrounding cells, leaving them dehydrated and you chronically thirsty.
When you are locked in this vicious cycle, you may experience dehydration no matter how much you drink. However, there is some evidence that staying properly hydrated on a daily basis can help prevent the development of prediabetes and eventually, type 2 diabetes. Water and blood sugar regulation go hand in hand.
Prediabetes is a warning sign that something must change in order to stay healthy. If, after reading our list, you find that you’re experiencing several of the warning symptoms of prediabetes, don’t panic. With proper attention, it is still reversible. The first step is to make an appointment with your doctor to be assessed. He or she can provide helpful advice on diet and other preventative steps.
We recommend laying out a series of small, sustainable changes that you can build upon. Start by drinking more water every day and taking the stairs instead of the elevator whenever you can. Then cut out sodas, or fast food meals, or your sugary bedtime snack. Find a workout buddy. Experiment with new fruits and vegetables.
It’s not easy, but renewing your commitment to yourself and your health can turn the tide and send prediabetes packing.