What Are Prediabetic Symptoms? How to Spot the Condition Early

Updated 08/24/17
what are pre-diabetic symptoms
@lucywilliams02

When it comes to diabetes, more than 30 million people in the U.S. alone suffer from the condition and more than one in four don't even realize they have it. But what are prediabetic symptoms so you can spot the disease early on? First of all, "prediabetes" is defined as having blood sugar levels above the normal range but not quite in the diabetic level. Having diabetes increases your chances of heart disease, stroke, and nerve damage, among other health conditions, which is why it can be a lifesaver if you can recognize it in the early stages.

Similarly to those suffering from diabetes, the majority of people who are prediabetic—an estimated nine in 10—don't even realize their blood sugar is on the rise. "That's because it's common for people to feel perfectly normal and healthy while the disease is progressing," says Ashita Gupta, MD, an endocrinologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. This means it's even more important for you to recognize the indicators of prediabetes—and treat them—before they progress. Below see the top five prediabetic symptoms to be on the lookout for.

If you observe one (or more), it may be time to see your doctor.

Your vision is blurry

Blurry eyesight is linked with fluctuations in your blood sugar (which are common when you have prediabetes and the full-fledged condition, too). In fact, diabetes is reportedly the number one cause of blindness in adults. For context, a blood sugar level of 5.9 is considered normal, while 5.7 to 6.4 is prediabetes and 6.4 and above constitutes diabetes.

You have hair loss

Although hair loss can be attributed to many things—including prescriptions you're taking or work-induced stress, it also can be a signal that you have diabetes or prediabetes. Why is that? Well, it all has to do with insulin resistance, which is when your body has difficulty using insulin to move sugar from your bloodstream into your cells. When you have higher blood sugar levels, your body is less able to fight infection, and that can cause your hair growth to get thrown out of whack.

You can't quench your thirst

Constant thirstiness is a well-known symptom of both prediabetes and diabetes (it's simply your body's reaction to the extra sugar in your bloodstream). In an attempt to get rid of the sugar through more frequent urination, your body becomes dehydrated and starts craving water. It can sometimes seem as though no matter how much water you drink, it's just not enough.

You have abrupt weight gain or loss

If you're experiencing significant weight gain or loss out of the blue, then it may be a sign of prediabetes. It's possible for your body to burn calories trying to make energy, which is why you can have weight loss without hitting the gym, says Gupta. On the flip side, because of insulin resistance, your body can be fooled into making you feel hungry, which can be the reason you're gaining some pounds.

Your skin has dark spots

This pigmentation disorder is called acanthosis nigricans, and the spots tend to appear on the back of your neck, under your arms, or in elbow creases and have a "thick, velvety texture." When your insulin levels increase, your skin cells have the potential to reproduce faster—it's when these cells reproduce too quickly that these uneven skin patches occur.

Did we miss any prediabetic symptoms? If so, tell us in the comments. 

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