Prediabetes: An Early Warning Sign

Someone whose blood sugar level is between 100 and 125 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) — higher than normal but not yet in the range for diabetes — is considered to have prediabetes. That’s a signal that changes are needed to avoid the development of Type 2 diabetes.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has determined that more than 1 in 3 Americans has prediabetes, but most of them don’t know they have it. Their blood glucose level may have risen because their body’s cells are becoming less sensitive to insulin. That causes the pancreas to produce more insulin, but eventually, the pancreas becomes unable to make enough insulin to transfer sugar from the blood to the body’s cells. The continually rising blood sugar eventually can evolve into type 2 diabetes.

Lifestyle and dietary changes can help a person with prediabetes from developing type 2 diabetes. Our UC Davis Health endocrinologists, specially trained nurses, and dietitians can design a program for you that includes meal planning, physical activity, stress management and perhaps medication to prevent worsening illness. The factors that put a person at risk for prediabetes are the same as those that lead to type 2 diabetes. You’ll learn much more in the health education classes that we offer to help put you in charge and in control of your own health.

Read more from UC Davis Health: Why most people don’t know they have prediabetes

Risk Factors for Prediabetes and Diabetes

The American Diabetes Association recommends testing for prediabetes and diabetes in adults without symptoms who are overweight and have one or more risk factors. They include:

  • lack of physical inactivity
  • parent or sibling with diabetes
  • family background is African American, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, Alaska Native, American Indian or Pacific Islander
  • gestational diabetes or gave birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds
  • high blood pressure
  • low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good” cholesterol
  • high triglyceride levels
  • polycystic ovary syndrome
  • impaired fasting glucose or glucose tolerance in previous testing
  • severe obesity and other conditions associated with insulin resistance
  • cardiovascular disease

How Prediabetes and Diabetes Are Diagnosed

A simple blood test measuring glucose level is used to determine if someone has prediabetes or diabetes. A normal blood glucose level between meals is less than 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl). Doctors have a name for significantly higher blood glucose levels: hyperglycemia. A blood glucose level of 126 mg/dl or higher after fasting for 12 hours or greater than 200 mg/dl two hours after eating, a characteristic of diabetes, is cause for concern and action.

Symptoms of Diabetes

  • Continual thirst, despite drinking lots of liquids
  • Frequent urination, especially during the night
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Hunger, despite eating normally
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Blurred vision
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
  • Slow healing of cuts and sores

Health Risks of Diabetes

If left untreated, diabetes over time can be damaging and potentially life-threatening. It can increase your risk for:

  • Kidney disease, potentially leading to the need for dialysis
  • Cardiovascular problems — heart disease, heart attack, and stroke
  • Retinopathy, caused by damage to the blood vessels in the retina, at the back of the eye, posing a risk of vision problems or even blindness
  • Nerve damage
  • Gum disease
  • Foot problems that can lead to amputation if severe

Other Conditions We Treat