Several years ago, my mother started experiencing a strange set of symptoms. Frequent urination, fatigue, and blurred vision were just a few of the issues she was struggling to understand. As she analyzed her symptoms, she attempted to combat each one individually. Unsuccessful in her battle, the symptoms just got worse. Why was she feeling this way?
What my mother was experiencing is more common that one might think. Her body was giving her "warning signs," letting her know that, unless she changed her diet, she was heading toward diabetes.
Diabetes is a condition we read about online and hear about in the news pretty often. But until you or someone you know is diagnosed with the disease, most people aren't up to date on this harmful condition or its precursor, prediabetes.
When a person's blood-glucose levels are high, but not high enough to be categorized as type 2 diabetes, he or she is considered prediabetic. The Mayo Clinic defines "prediabetes," also known as "impaired glucose tolerance" or "impaired fasting glucose," as a health condition with few to no symptoms.
Given that information, it's not surprising that millions of people have prediabetes or diabetes and don't even realize it. Because the symptoms develop so gradually, people don't recognize it. This is why my mother didn't link her deteriorating health to the disease.
According to the American Diabetes Association, more than 25 million people in the United States are living with some form of diabetes, and an additional 79 million people are considered prediabetic. People with prediabetes are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes and may suffer from health problems caused by diabetes already. Without even knowing it, you may already be experiencing symptoms that can damage your body's heart and circulatory system.
Because of this, it is in everyone's best interest to familiarize themselves with the prediabetes indicators before any serious side effects emerge.
Some common symptoms of diabetes and prediabetes include:
• Unusual thirst
• Frequent urination
• Blurred vision
• Extreme fatigue
• Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal
• Tingling/numbness in the hands and/or feet
• Sporadic skin, gum, or bladder infections
• Any signs of a condition called insulin resistance, such as severe obesity or a darkened skin condition called acanthosis nigricans
As we learn more about diabetes and its health risks, doctors are starting to understand the significance of diagnosing prediabetes in preventing serious long-term health problems. Early treatment of prediabetes may prevent type 2 diabetes and other health problems such as heart and blood-vessel disease, eye disease, and kidney disease.
Wondering whether you're at risk for prediabetes and diabetes? US News suggests that some of us may be more at risk than others.
The following groups of people should consider diabetes testing:
• People with a family history of type 2 diabetes
• Women who have had gestational diabetes or who have given birth to a baby that weighed more than nine pounds at birth
• Women who have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
• African Americans, Native Americans, Latinos, and Pacific Islanders - minority groups that are disproportionately affected by diabetes
• People with high cholesterol, high triglycerides, low "good" HDL cholesterol, or high "bad" LDL cholesterol
• People who are inactive
• People age 45 and up
• People who are overweight and/or have a BMI (body mass index) of 25 or more
• People who carry extra weight around the abdomen
If any of these risk factors apply to you, your doctor can perform one of three different blood tests: the oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT), the fasting plasma glucose test (FPG), or the hemoglobin A1C test (or average blood sugar). If your body has difficulty synthesizing glucose appropriately, you may have what is called "impaired fasting glucose," or prediabetes.
Although being diagnosed as prediabetic can be overwhelming, it can also be an opportunity for change. Progression from prediabetes to type 2 diabetes isn't inevitable or inescapable. Certain lifestyle changes, such as eating healthier and adding exercise to your daily routine, may be enough to bring your blood sugar back to a normal level without minimal or no additional medication.