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Pre-diabetes

3-minute read

Pre-diabetes is when blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes.

About 1 in 3 people with pre-diabetes will go on to develop type 2 diabetes. If you have been told you have pre-diabetes, it’s important to make lasting changes to your lifestyle, including healthy eating, exercising and losing weight, to prevent type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

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
  • 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?

Find out if you're at risk of heart disease, kidney disease or diabetes in just a few minutes using the healthdirect Risk Checker.

Pre-diabetes diagnosis

There aren’t any 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 diagnosed through an oral glucose tolerance test. You will need to fast (not eat for 8 hours) and then drink a sugary drink. A blood test taken 2 hours later measures your blood glucose.

Pre-diabetes management

If you have pre-diabetes, this does not mean you will necessarily develop type 2 diabetes. However, you will have a higher risk of doing so than if you had normal glucose levels.

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.

As pre-diabetes also increases the risk of heart disease, it is important to control your blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels and to quit smoking.

Having an annual health check, including screening for type 2 diabetes, is also important.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: February 2019

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