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Can Prediabetes Cause Neuropathy?

Written on December 22, 2023 by Jordan Stachel, MS, RDN, CPT. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

Table of contents

While you may have heard of prediabetes, many people have never heard of neuropathy. Neuropathy is a condition in which certain nerves in the body become damaged. Read this article for everything you need to know.

What Is Prediabetes?

Prediabetes is a condition in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be considered diabetes.[1] Prediabetes is a serious condition, as uncontrolled blood sugar levels can lead to the development of diabetes and other undesirable health conditions.

Symptoms of prediabetes can include [1]:

  • Increase in thirst
  • Increase in urination frequency
  • Tiredness
  • Blurry vision
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
  • Immunocompromised systems, leading to increases in infection and/or slower wound healing

If you or someone you know believes that they may be prediabetic, it is important to get tested by visiting a healthcare provider. They will test your hemoglobin A1c, or the marker of the average of your blood sugar over three months.

While the causes of prediabetes can vary, several risk factors can increase the risk of getting prediabetes. Some of these include [1]:

  • Being overweight, or having more fatty tissue around the abdomen
  • Waist size
  • A diet that is high in sweets and processed meats
  • A sedentary lifestyle
  • Age (being over 35 years old increases one’s risk of developing prediabetes)
  • Family history
  • Race
  • History of gestational diabetes
  • Sleep apnea
  • Smoking tobacco

What Is Neuropathy?

Neuropathy is a condition in which the nerves become damaged. This often results in pain, burning, or tingling in the limbs.[2] Symptoms of neuropathy can vary but often include:

  • Gradual onset of numbness, prickling, or tingling in the extremities
  • Throbbing or burning pain
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Lack of coordination
  • Muscle weakness
  • The feeling of wearing gloves or socks when you aren’t
  • Heat intolerance
  • Excessive sweating

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What Causes Neuropathy?

While neuropathy can be caused by many things, some people wonder, can prediabetes cause neuropathy? While further research is needed in this area to draw more concrete conclusions, there is some research to support the fact that prediabetes can cause neuropathy for some people.[3] In certain studies that examined glucose tolerance, people with impaired glucose tolerance, which occurs in prediabetes, exhibited an increased risk for neuropathy when compared to people with normal glucose tolerance.

Prediabetes can turn into diabetes, and neuropathy is a common side effect of uncontrolled diabetes. This is known as diabetic neuropathy.[4] While neuropathy may be caused by prediabetes in some people, especially if you have high and uncontrolled blood sugar levels for a long time, it is very common for people with diabetes to suffer from neuropathy.

Diabetic neuropathy is a condition that occurs over time as the nerves become damaged from long-term, uncontrolled blood sugar levels.[5] This is a serious condition that can result in several different types of neuropathy.

Some of the most common types of neuropathy include [5]:

  • Peripheral neuropathy: The most common type of neuropathy. It occurs when the nerves of the feet and/or legs are affected. Sometimes the nerves of the arms and/or hands can be affected as well.
  • Autonomic neuropathy: The second most common type of neuropathy for people with uncontrolled blood sugar levels. In this type of neuropathy, the autonomic system is affected, which causes a loss of control over the digestive system, sweat glands, bladder, and heart. As such, people with this type of neuropathy commonly report issues with using the bathroom, eating, their sex life, and blood pressure.
  • Proximal neuropathy: This type of neuropathy affects the hips, butt, and thighs. People with this type of neuropathy often experience muscle weakness in these areas.
  • Focal neuropathy: this type of neuropathy affects a specific nerve, most typically in the head, torso, or legs. People with this type of neuropathy may have carpal tunnel syndrome.

How To Manage Neuropathy

If you have neuropathy due to uncontrolled blood sugar levels, you cannot cure the condition but can take measures to manage it.[5] Some ways to control and manage neuropathy include improving your blood sugar levels with diet and lifestyle modifications and quitting smoking. It is always recommended to work with a team of qualified healthcare providers for personalized guidance and recommendations. They may also recommend the use of certain medications to aid in pain management.

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  1. Prediabetes - Symptoms and causes. Mayo Clinic. Published November 11, 2023. Accessed December 7, 2023.
  2. Peripheral neuropathy - Symptoms and causes. Mayo Clinic. Published September 2, 2023. Accessed December 7, 2023.
  3. Ziegler D, Rathmann W, Dickhaus T, Meisinger C, Mielck A. Prevalence of polyneuropathy in pre-diabetes and diabetes is associated with abdominal obesity and macroangiopathy. Diabetes Care. 2008;31(3):464-469. doi:10.2337/dc07-1796.
  4. Duggal N. Diabetic neuropathy: Can it be reversed? Healthline. Published May 19, 2023. Accessed December 7, 2023.
  5. Everything you should know about diabetic neuropathy. Healthline. Published November 22, 2022. Accessed December 7, 2023.
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