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What is prediabetes and how is it different from diabetes?

Prediabetes is the state that occurs when a person's blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. About 11 percent of people with prediabetes in the Diabetes Prevention Program standard or control group developed type 2 diabetes each year during the average 3 years of follow-up. Other studies show that many people with prediabetes develop type 2 diabetes in 10 years.

What are the symptoms of prediabetes?

The reason why so many people suffer from prediabetes and are completely unaware of it is because it is quite possible for no symptoms to manifest themselves. Both diabetes and prediabetes develop at a gradual rate.

How do I know if I have prediabetes?

Doctors can use either the fasting plasma glucose test (FPG) or the oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) to detect prediabetes. Both require a person to fast overnight. In the FPG test, a person's blood glucose is measured first thing in the morning before eating. In the OGTT, a person's blood glucose is checked after fasting and again 2 hours after drinking a glucose-rich drink.

How do I stop prediabetes developing into Type 2 diabetes?

The good news may be that, if you have become aware of the disease early, your condition can still be cured. The two principle factors for consideration are the changing of diet and the addition of appropriate physical exercise to your lifestyle. By making these changes, it may be possible to return blood sugar levels to normal. Prediabetes is a serious medical condition that can be treated.
The recently completed Diabetes Prevention Program study conclusively showed that people with prediabetes can prevent the development of type 2 diabetes by making changes in their diet and increasing their level of physical activity. They may even be able to return their blood glucose levels to the normal range. But for a comprehensive and individual plan you should see your doctor.

Is prediabetes the same as Impaired Glucose Tolerance or Impaired Fasting Glucose?

Yes. Doctors sometimes refer to this state of elevated blood glucose levels as Impaired Glucose Tolerance or Impaired Fasting Glucose (IGT/IFG), depending on which test was used to detect it.

Why do we need to give it a new name? Has the condition changed?

The condition has not changed, but what we know about it has. We are giving IGT/IFG a new name for several reasons. prediabetes is a clearer way of explaining what it means to have higher than normal blood glucose levels. It means you are likely to develop diabetes and may already be experiencing the adverse health effects of this serious condition. People with prediabetes are at higher risk of cardiovascular disease. People with prediabetes have a 1.5-fold risk of cardiovascular disease compared to people with normal blood glucose. People with diabetes have a 2- to 4-fold increased risk of cardiovascular disease. We now know that people with prediabetes can delay or prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes through lifestyle changes.

How does the FPG test define diabetes and prediabetes?

Normal fasting blood glucose is below 100 mg/dl. A person with prediabetes has a fasting blood glucose level between 100 and 125 mg/dl. If the blood glucose level rises to 126 mg/dl or above, a person has diabetes.

How does the OGTT define diabetes and prediabetes?

In the OGTT, a person's blood glucose is measured after a fast and 2 hours after drinking a glucose-rich beverage. Normal blood glucose is below 140 mg/dl 2 hours after the drink. In prediabetes, the 2-hour blood glucose is 140 to 199 mg/dl. If the 2-hour blood glucose rises to 200 mg/dl or above, a person has diabetes.

Which test is better?

According to the expert panel, either test is appropriate to identify prediabetes.

Why do I need to know if I have prediabetes?

If you have prediabetes, you can and should do something about it. Studies have shown that people with prediabetes can prevent or delay the development of type 2 diabetes by up to 58 percent through changes to their lifestyle that include modest weight loss and regular exercise. The expert panel recommends that people with prediabetes reduce their weight by 5-10 percent and participate in some type of modest physical activity for 30 minutes daily. For some people with prediabetes, intervening early can actually turn back the clock and return elevated blood glucose levels to the normal range.

What is the treatment for prediabetes?

Treatment consists of losing a modest amount of weight (5-10 percent of total body weight) through diet and moderate exercise, such as walking, 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Don't worry if you can't get to your ideal body weight. A loss of just 10 to 15 pounds can make a huge difference. If you have prediabetes, you are at a 50 percent increased risk for heart disease or stroke, so your doctor may wish to treat or counsel you about cardiovascular risk factors, such as tobacco use, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

Who should get tested for prediabetes?

If you are overweight and age 45 or older, you should be checked for prediabetes during your next routine medical office visit. If your weight is normal and you're over age 45, you should ask your doctor during a routine office visit if testing is appropriate. For adults younger than 45 and overweight, your doctor may recommend testing if you have any other risk factors for diabetes or prediabetes. These include high blood pressure, low HDL cholesterol and high triglycerides, a family history of diabetes, a history of gestational diabetes or giving birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds, or belonging to an ethnic or minority group at high risk for diabetes.

How often should I be tested?

If your blood glucose levels are in the normal range, it is reasonable to be checked every 3 years. If you have prediabetes, you should be checked for type 2 diabetes every 1-2 years after your diagnosis.

Could I have prediabetes and not know it?

Absolutely. People with prediabetes don't often have symptoms. In fact, millions of people have diabetes and don't know it because symptoms develop so gradually, people often don't recognize them. Some people have no symptoms at all. Symptoms of diabetes include unusual thirst, a frequent desire to urinate, blurred vision, or a feeling of being tired most of the time for no apparent reason.

Sources: American Diabetes Association, Diabetes Care, Diabetes UK



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