What is pre-diabetes?
If you have pre-diabetes, you are at 10 to 20 times greater risk of going on to develop type 2 diabetes. If you have been told you have pre-diabetes, it is important to make lasting changes to your lifestyle, including healthy eating, exercising and losing weight, to prevent type 2 diabetes and its complications.
What are the symptoms of pre-diabetes?
There are normally no symptoms of pre-diabetes — most people find out they have it if their doctor orders a blood test. This might happen because they are at risk of pre-diabetes (see below).
See your doctor if you have any signs that your pre-diabetes has moved on to type 2 diabetes, including:
- being more thirsty
- urinating (weeing) a lot
- feeling very tired
- blurred vision
Who is at risk of pre-diabetes?
The risk factors for pre-diabetes are the same as those for type 2 diabetes. They include:
- being overweight, especially if your waist measures more than 94cm for men and more than 80cm for women
- having an inactive lifestyle
- having low HDL (good) cholesterol and high triglycerides
- having high blood pressure
- having a family history of type 2 diabetes or heart disease
- having gestational diabetes during pregnancy
- having polycystic ovary syndrome
- being Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander or from the Pacific Islands, Māori or from Asia (including the Indian sub-continent)
Are you at risk?
How is pre-diabetes diagnosed?
There are typically no symptoms for pre-diabetes. If your doctor notices that your blood sugar levels are raised, they may send you for more tests to diagnose whether you have pre-diabetes.
If you have pre-diabetes, you have either one or both of these conditions:
- impaired glucose tolerance — your blood glucose level is above normal but not high enough to be called diabetes
- impaired fasting glucose — your fasting blood glucose level is above normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.
Both of these pre-diabetes conditions are confirmed through an oral glucose tolerance test after a fasting blood glucose level is high. For a glucose tolerance test you will need to fast (not eat for 8 hours) and then drink a sugary drink. A blood test is taken after 1 hour and then 2 hours later to measure your blood glucose.
Can pre-diabetes be managed?
If you have pre-diabetes, this does not mean you will necessarily develop type 2 diabetes. Although 1 in 3 people with pre-diabetes will develop type 2 diabetes, eating well and exercise can prevent this in more than half of high-risk cases.
Pre-diabetes is usually managed by making the same healthy lifestyle changes you should make if you had type 2 diabetes. These include healthy eating, regular physical activity and, if necessary, losing weight.
Having an annual health check, including screening for type 2 diabetes, is also important.
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Last reviewed: March 2021