5 Pre-Diabetic Symptoms You Should Not Ignore

Today, unhealthy, inactive lifestyles have led to an increasing number of people showing pre-diabetic symptoms. Here are five things you must be wary of in order to avoid developing diabetes.

By Dr Pradeep Gadge  • 8 min read

5 Pre-Diabetic Symptoms You Should Not Ignore

For some weeks, Reena Mistry has been suffering from fatigue and rapid weight loss. She has also been experiencing extreme thirst. Reena had attributed these symptoms to stress, her long working hours and irregular eating habits. So, when she finally consulted her family doctor, she got a jolt — he told her these could be pre-diabetic symptoms and that she has to overhaul her lifestyle and become healthier. If she did not do so, she could be at risk of developing diabetes, he warned.  

According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) Atlas Eight Edition 2017, 425 million adults were living with diabetes in 2017. This number is expected to increase to around 642 million or, one in 10 adults, by 2040.

So, what is pre-diabetes?

‘Pre-diabetes’ is the term used for individuals with IFG (impaired fasting glucose) and indicates an increased risk for the future development of diabetes. These people have haemoglobin A1C (HbA1c) level between 5.7 and 6.4 per cent. Fasting blood sugars levels between 100 mg/dl (milligrams per deciliter) and 125mg/dl (milligrams per deciliter) means the person has an underlying condition called insulin resistance.

“If you are pre-diabetic, you need to check your blood sugar levels at least once in six months. The earlier it is is detected, the lower the risk of complications in future." — Dr Pradeep Gadge, Diabetologist

5 pre-diabetic symptoms you should not ignore

The exact cause of insulin resistance is not clear yet, but major contributing factors include excess weight (especially around the middle), and lack of physical activity. 

So, here are the warning signs of pre-diabetes:

  1. Increased hunger and fatigue: If you have pre-diabetes symptoms, you may notice that you feel hungrier. Even after a meal, you may feel the urge to eat again. Fatigue is another symptom. You could be resting the whole day, without any physical activity but still feel tired and fatigued.
  2. Unexpected weight loss: In people with pre-diabetes, insufficient insulin prevents the body from getting glucose from the blood into the body's cells to use as energy. When this occurs, your body starts burning fat and muscle for energy, causing a reduction in overall weight. Hence, unexpected weight loss is often noticed prior to a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.
  3. Increased thirst: Pre-diabetic people have excessive thirst (also called polydipsia) and increased urination (also known as polyuria). This is because when excess sugar (glucose) builds up in your blood, the kidneys are forced to work overtime to filter and absorb the excess sugar. If the kidneys can't keep up, the excess sugar is excreted into the urine, dragging along fluids from tissues. This triggers more frequent urination, which may leave you dehydrated. As you drink more fluids to quench your thirst, you urinate even more. This hits you like a double whammy — the dehydration from increased urination and the fact that the body is less able to use sugar for energy needs. In the long term, both hamper your body's ability to function properly. 
  4. Skin darkening: Another sign of pre-diabetes is a condition called acanthosis nigricans — darkening of the skin in places such as the neck, armpits, elbows and knees.
  5. Bad sleep habits: If you have poor sleep habits and regularly sleep for less than six hours a night, then you are more likely to have pre-diabetes. This is because the lack of sleep causes havoc on blood sugar levels.
“Having pre-diabetes can increase your risk for type 2 diabetes, but you can take steps to keep your blood sugar within a healthy range, and possibly, even reverse the condition. Proper diet, exercise and awareness can make a difference, in the long run,” adds Dr Gadge.

Lifestyle changes may help battle the condition

Making certain changes to your lifestyle can help in the management of blood sugar levels. It is important to have healthy and balanced meals. This includes avoiding bakery/refined products, limiting the consumption of fried foods and adding sucralose in food preparation, instead of sugar. It is also better to have small and frequent meals.

For people with pre-diabetes or diabetes, exercise is very important. It helps in improving blood flow and maintaining a healthy weight. Losing weight can improve blood sugar as well as cholesterol levels and even, blood pressure. A brisk 30-minute walk is the best way to keep active, every day.

If you have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes, it is important to understand that it doesn't mean you already have diabetes. A simple lifestyle change can help delay, or even, reverse the onset of diabetes. In many cases, people with pre-diabetes have been able to achieve normal sugar levels through lifestyle modification. Therefore, it is important to ensure you control portion sizes at every meal. At the same time, do add more fibre-rich foods in your diet.

The author is a leading Diabetologist, Gadge Diabetes Centre.

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