Woman checking blood glucose levels to monitor prediabetes

Understanding prediabetes

Medically reviewed on May 11, 2023 by Morgan Spicer, Medical Communications Manager. 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.

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If you’ve been told by your healthcare provider that you have prediabetes, or that your HbA1c is in the prediabetic range, then you may have questions about what that means for your health. Left untreated, prediabetes can progress to Type 2 diabetes, but you can reduce your risks by making a few simple lifestyle changes. [1]

What is prediabetes?

Prediabetes is a condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not quite high enough to be considered diabetes. This is caused by insulin resistance, which happens when your body can’t use the insulin it makes, either because excess body fat makes it harder for insulin to get into cells or because cell receptors no longer respond to it properly. [1] This causes insulin and blood sugars to build up in the blood. Over time, elevated blood sugars can damage the small blood vessels in your body and lead to serious health conditions like kidney disease, loss of vision, and heart disease. [1]

What are the symptoms of prediabetes?

Most people with prediabetes don’t have any symptoms. As the condition progresses, some people have symptoms similar to diabetes, such as frequent thirst, hunger, and urination. Other signs may include increased fat around the belly, lack of energy or fatigue, skin tags near the armpit or neck, and difficulty concentrating. [2, 3] Many people with prediabetes also have low HDL (good) cholesterol, high blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol, triglycerides, and HbA1c lab values. [3]

Self Reflection: Have you noticed any changes in your health recently?

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How is prediabetes treated?

The first line of treatment for prediabetes is to focus on lifestyle changes. Making healthy food choices, being physically active, and losing excess body weight are all cornerstones of managing prediabetes. [1,3] Your healthcare provider may also prescribe medication if your blood sugars don’t show enough improvement with lifestyle changes alone.

Is prediabetes reversible?

You may have heard that prediabetes is reversible, meaning you can prevent it from progressing to diabetes through lifestyle changes. [4] One landmark study showed that if you have prediabetes, it’s possible to reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58% over 3 years with intensive lifestyle interventions. [5] The key is to act quickly. Prediabetes is a warning sign that it’s time to take action to improve your health. Small changes really can lead to big results. We recommend discussing any current or upcoming lifestyle changes with your healthcare provider so that together, you can plan the next steps that are best for you.

Self Reflection: Do you know your diabetes risk? Take the American Diabetes Association’s 60-second Type 2 Diabetes Risk Test and find out.

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  1. Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) Research Group. The Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP): description of lifestyle intervention. Diabetes Care. 2002;25(12):2165-2171. doi:10.2337/diacare.25.12.2165
  2. González-Saldivar G, Rodríguez-Gutiérrez R, Ocampo-Candiani J, González-González JG, Gómez-Flores M. Skin Manifestations of Insulin Resistance: From a Biochemical Stance to a Clinical Diagnosis and Management. Dermatol Ther (Heidelb). 2017;7(1):37-51. doi:10.1007/s13555-016-0160-3
  3. Diabetes and Prediabetes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed May 9, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/factsheets/diabetes-prediabetes.htm
  4. The Surprising Truth About Prediabetes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed May 9, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/features/truth-about-prediabetes.html
  5. The Diabetes Prevention Program. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Updated May 2022. Accessed May 9, 2023. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/about-niddk/research-areas/diabetes/diabetes-prevention-program-dpp
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