Surprising Signs of Prediabetes

By Nicole Dorsey, MS. Medically reviewed by Tom Iarocci, MD. May 7th 2016

Today, 26 million U.S. children and adults have diabetes — 8.3 percent of the population. However, according to the National Diabetes Association, a whopping 79 million more are estimated to be in stages of prediabetes and experiencing subtle, debilitating symptoms leading up to type 2 diabetes.

Prediabetes is the precursor to full-fledged type 2 diabetes and the perfect opportunity to get your health in check, says retired internist Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, author of “Beat Sugar Addiction Now.”

Due to the disease’s insidious nature, it may be difficult to sniff out elusive symptoms of prediabetes. Genetics plays a strong role in development of type 2 diabetes, and there may be environmental factors at work, too, says Teitelbaum. If you have insufficient insulin, or if it doesn’t work, human cells become energy-starved and broadcast an SOS message to demand more sugar.

Lifestyle transformations can thwart type 2 diabetes even if you do have the disease in your DNA. In “The Prediabetes Diet Plan,” nutritionist Hillary Wright, MEd, RD, indicates the large majority of type 2 cases can be attributed to four fixable factors: excess weight, lack of exercise, unhealthy diet and smoking.

But there are also some lesser-known signs of prediabetes that may surprise you:  

Surprising Signs of Prediabetes

Many people end up visiting their doctor for collective complaints and have no idea they are directly related to diabetes or prediabetes, says Wright.

Tune into these signals:  

  1. Unexplained weakness: When your body fails to produce insulin properly, you may feel strangely and chronically exhausted because your body is not processing energy correctly.
  2. Random foot problems: The skin on your feet might change color, and you may develop odd-looking calluses that become ulcerated. Poor circulation makes it more difficult to fight off infections. 
  3. Odd tingling and numbness: If you start experiencing numbness in your hands, legs or feet it may be signs of nerve damage. If the tingles endure, you may no longer notice heat or cold.

More Common Signs of Prediabetes

In addition to the more disquieting symptoms, take note of more common warning signs, too:

  • Increased thirst and fluid uptake,
  • Ravenous hunger and increased snacking,
  • Vision problems,
  • Frequent urination,
  • Unexpected weight loss or weight gain,
  • Nausea and dizziness, and
  • Slower healing of wounds.

Next Steps

If you start to develop mystifying symptoms, consult a health care provider who may prescribe a blood or urine test to measure the levels of glucose and insulin in your body.

You can also be proactive about your health:

  • Drop 5 to 10 pounds. Researchers found that dropping just 7 percent of your body weight can greatly reduce your risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Drink more water. One good way to control calories and help sidestep type 2 diabetes is by drinking plenty of water to keep cells hydrated and functioning properly. Skip the sugary juices and sodas because those empty calories won’t fill you up and will increase weight gain.  
  • Eat 4 to 6 smaller meals. Grazing during the day keeps your blood sugar balanced and steady, preventing uneven energy spikes. Keep your portions an appropriate size, and start making healthier food choices to elude type 2 diabetes. 

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