Pre-diabetes is a risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes. Pre-diabetes has no symptoms, but there are a range of risk factors including obesity, smoking, heart disease, polycystic ovarian syndrome and high blood pressure. Pre-diabetes is diagnosed using tests for blood glucose levels. Without treatment, about one in three people with pre-diabetes will develop type 2 diabetes.
Pre-diabetes is a condition in which blood glucose levels are higher than normal, although not high enough to be diabetes. Pre-diabetes has no signs or symptoms.
People with pre-diabetes have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular (heart and circulation) disease.
Higher than normal glucose levels
If you are diagnosed with pre-diabetes, you will have one or both of the following:
- Impaired fasting glucose (IFG) – this condition is diagnosed when the fasting blood glucose level is higher than normal, but still below the level for a diagnosis of diabetes.
- Impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) – this condition is diagnosed when the blood glucose level taken after two hours as part of an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) is higher than normal, but still below the level for a diagnosis of diabetes. The fasting level may be in the normal range.
Pre-diabetes can lead to type 2 diabetes
Without lifestyle changes , approximately one in three people with pre-diabetes will develop type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is a condition in which blood glucose levels are higher than normal because the body is unable to produce sufficient insulin, or the insulin it produces is unable to work as effectively in the body (insulin resistance).
Insulin is a hormone that is needed to move glucose from the blood into the cells for energy.. A lack of insulin leads to raised blood glucose levels. Type 2 diabetes is a serious and chronic medical condition that over time can lead to long-term damage of nerves and blood vessels, kidneys, heart, eyes and feet.
Symptoms of pre-diabetes
Pre-diabetes has no signs or symptoms. It is important to be aware of the risk factors and have your blood glucose levels checked by a blood test ordered by your doctor if you are at risk.
Risk factors for pre-diabetes
The risk factors for developing pre-diabetes are the same as for type 2 diabetes, and include:
- A family history of type 2 diabetes
- Being overweight or obese
- Low level of physical activity
- High blood pressure or abnormal blood fats (or both)
- Cardiovascular disease
- Indigenous Australian or Torres Strait Islander people
- People from some cultural backgrounds including Middle Eastern, South Asian, Pacific Islander and North African backgrounds
- Gestational diabetes during pregnancy
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Some antipsychotic medications.
Diagnosis of pre-diabetes
Pre-diabetes is diagnosed by pathology tests to check blood glucose levels, which may include an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). The results will show if blood glucose levels are in the normal, pre-diabetes or diabetes range.
Management of pre-diabetes
The main aim of pre-diabetes management is to prevent the development of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. This can be done by lifestyle changes including:
- Weight reduction – helps the body to become more sensitive to insulin and use glucose more effectively.
- Physical activity – regular moderate physical activity helps manage weight and reduce blood glucose levels. It may also improve blood pressure and cholesterol.
- A balanced diet – less fat, especially saturated fats, and more fruit, vegetables and high-fibre foods.
- Stop smoking. Smoking causes insulin resistance and increases the risk of vascular disease.
- Blood pressure and cholesterol should be checked regularly.
Follow-up for pre-diabetes
There is no benefit in testing your own blood glucose levels when you have pre-diabetes. Once you are diagnosed with pre-diabetes, your doctor will organise a repeat oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) in 12 months, unless you develop symptoms of diabetes earlier.
Where to get help
- Your doctor
- Community health centre
- Diabetes Australia Victoria Tel. 13 RISK (7475)
- Dietitians Association of Australia Tel. (02) 6163 5200
Things to remember
- Pre-diabetes has no signs or symptoms and can progress to type 2 diabetes.
- If you have pre-diabetes, lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Risk factors for pre-diabetes include a family history of type 2 diabetes, obesity, smoking and some ethnic backgrounds.
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This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by:
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Diabetes Australia Victoria
Last reviewed: May 2012
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