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Signs You Have Pre-Diabetes, Say Experts

Here's what you need to know to protect yourself.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes are an American epidemic: According to the American Medical Association, one in three American adults has pre-diabetes—nearly 88 million people—and 80% of them are unaware of it. Left unchecked, pre-diabetes can lead to Type 2 diabetes, which raises the risk of heart disease, stroke, dementia, blindness and other complications. The good news is that pre-diabetes is often reversible. Here's what you need to know to protect yourself. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


What is Pre-Diabetes?

woman consulting with female doctor

Pre-diabetes is a condition in which your blood sugar is higher than normal, but not high enough to be considered diabetes. Your blood sugar may be higher than normal because you've developed insulin resistance. Insulin is the hormone the body produces to process blood sugar so it can be used by cells for energy. When the body becomes resistant to insulin, blood sugar levels rise.

Often, pre-diabetes can be reversed with diet and lifestyle changes. But the signs can be subtle and go unnoticed, unless you're alert. These are some of the most common signs of pre-diabetes to look out for.


Your Blood Sugar Is Elevated

Diabetic woman taking blood sample with lancet pen at home.

According to the CDC, these are the blood sugar levels (taken after fasting) that indicate prediabetes or diabetes:

  • Normal: Under 100 mg/dL
  • Prediabetes: 100 to 125 mg/dL
  • Diabetes: above 126 mg/dL

An A1C blood test measures your average blood sugar level over the past two or three months. An A1C below 5.7% is normal. An A1C between 5.7 and 6.4% indicates prediabetes, and 6.5% or higher indicates diabetes.

Your blood sugar is tested as a matter of course during a routine medical exam. Partly because pre-diabetes may have subtle symptoms or no symptoms for years, it's recommended that adults be tested for diabetes regularly. Talk to your healthcare provider about what's best for you.


You See This On Your Skin

Woman removing adhesive plaster from the wound after blood test injection

People with pre-diabetes may develop telltale signs on their skin. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, these include yellow, brown, or reddish patches on the skin that may begin as raised bumps (necrobiosis lipodica) or a dark patch of velvet-like skin on your neck, groin or elsewhere (acanthosis nigricans). You might also experience hard, thickening patches of skin on your fingers or toes, or wounds or sores that don't heal. 

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Eye Changes

Stressed businesswoman rubbing her eyes in the office.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, some people with pre-diabetes may develop eye changes that can lead to diabetic retinopathy. Diabetes can damage blood vessels in the eye, or cause new blood vessels to grow, that can result in vision loss. If you notice blurry vision, consult your eye doctor.

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Frequent Urination or Increased Thirst

with closed eyes drinking clean mineral water close up, young woman holding glass

Being more thirsty than usual, or urinating more often that is normal for you, can be signs of pre-diabetes or diabetes. That's because as sugar builds up in the blood, the body tries to flush it out by increasing urine production. As it leaves the body, the sugar pulls fluid from other tissues, which may leave you dehydrated and thirsty. 

RELATED: Reasons Most People Gain "Too Much" Abdominal Fat



Sad woman on a sofa.

People with prediabetes or diabetes may find themselves feeling more tired than usual. That's because the conditions prevent the body's cells from using blood sugar for energy, which can leave you feeling worn out. "See your doctor if you're concerned about diabetes or if you notice any type 2 diabetes signs or symptoms. Ask your doctor about blood sugar screening if you have any risk factors for diabetes," says the Mayo Clinic. And to ensure your health don't miss these 101 Health Habits You Didn't Know Were Deadly.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael
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