What’s worse than having diabetes? Having prediabetes, which puts you at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes and several other dangerous health conditions. In fact, if you have prediabetes, you’re twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes within five years as someone without prediabetes, according to the CDC. Unfortunately, many people who have prediabetes don’t even know it, so they can’t do anything about it in time to avoid major health problems later on down the road.
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Post-pregnancy weight gain, thyroid issues, and an absent menstrual cycle might not seem like medical conditions you need to pay attention to, but all three are actually signs of prediabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In fact, nearly 24 million women in the United States may have prediabetes and not even know it! Here are nine subtle signs of prediabetes you might be missing (especially if you’re a woman), plus how to prevent or manage them so they don’t lead to diabetes.
9 Subtle Signs of Prediabetes You Might Be Missing (Especially if You’re a Woman)
Not everyone has the same risk factors for developing prediabetes, and it’s important to be aware of the warning signs. For example, prediabetes in females is more often due to weight gain (often from pregnancy or menopause) than other risk factors, such as age or family history, so it’s something you should be aware of if you’re at risk of developing prediabetes. Here are nine subtle signs of prediabetes that you might be missing, especially if you’re a woman.
The first and most important thing to do is see your doctor
There are many signs and symptoms that can signal you might have prediabetes, but none should be ignored. If you feel something is off, head to your doctor immediately. These subtle signs include: feeling very thirsty, frequent urination, sudden weight loss or gain, numbness or tingling in your hands or feet, blurred vision, and fatigue. The best treatment for prediabetes is keeping an eye on it and managing your risk factors—losing weight if necessary—to make sure it doesn’t progress to type 2 diabetes.
Get screened for diabetes and prediabetes.
There are two reasons why it’s important to get screened for diabetes and prediabetes. First, many people don’t even know they have it; an alarming 79 million Americans could be living with prediabetes but are totally unaware. Second, untreated prediabetes can develop into Type 2 diabetes within 10 years, so getting an early diagnosis can prevent serious health problems down the road. Women may be especially at risk because many doctors believe that they aren’t at risk because they’re not overweight or obese and don’t have other risk factors. However, women who have had gestational diabetes are actually twice as likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than non-diabetic women. Still not convinced?
#1: Frequent urination
Believe it or not, having to use the bathroom frequently is one of those subtle signs that can actually be indicative of prediabetes. One study published in Diabetes Care found that frequent urination is often an early sign of prediabetes in females. This could be due to elevated blood glucose levels, which will make you feel thirstier. Another cause might be polycystic ovarian syndrome, which can cause multiple symptoms like excessive urination and irregular menstrual cycles. Not only do women with PCOS have impaired glucose tolerance and increased insulin resistance, but they also have higher rates of type 2 diabetes than women without PCOS . Since every woman experiences her periods differently, especially during different phases, being more aware while menstruating might be beneficial.
#2: Weight loss despite increased appetite
If you’ve gained weight over time or recently, particularly in your stomach area, but you feel hungry all the time and can’t stop eating—even after you’ve had enough to eat—that’s likely a sign of prediabetes. Prediabetes means your blood sugar levels are elevated and getting close to that point where diabetes kicks in. Even though it’s not diabetes yet, prediabetes is something to pay attention to as it puts you at risk for several complications that aren’t good: nerve problems, heart disease, vision loss, and others. Note: appetite changes can be seen long before any symptoms or diagnosis of type 2 diabetes appears. So watch out for signs like these and get tested if something doesn’t seem right.
#3: Cravings for sweets or carbohydrates
When you eat, insulin spikes. And when insulin spikes, so do your cravings for sugars and starches, especially fast-acting ones. Once you become resistant to insulin, you’ll crave these foods. Try an apple instead, says Reissmueller. Don’t wait until you start craving it; think ahead and prepare your body for any change in food intake by eating healthier foods beforehand.
#4: Feeling increasingly thirsty, especially at night
If you feel thirsty, it’s an indication that your body is starting to have trouble retaining water. This is common with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, so make sure you stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Drink enough water so that your urine is colorless. If you can’t tell because it’s too dark or cloudy, go out in public wearing light-colored clothing and take note of how much your urine has diluted your clothes. The goal: At least four liters per day. Include two to three liters from non-sugary drinks like coffee, tea, and clear soda (and one glass before each meal), and another one to two liters from water flavored with lemon juice or cucumber slices/chips.
#5: Increased fatigue, exhaustion
When it comes to diabetes, men and women aren’t created equal. Females seem to experience fatigue earlier than males, and as a result, are more likely to deal with it without ever knowing they have prediabetes or diabetes. In fact, recent research shows that while one in four men will experience fatigue at some point in their lives, nearly half of all women report experiencing it before age 65—and that makes them more vulnerable to getting type 2 diabetes. If you feel tired all the time or can’t seem to get enough sleep no matter how many hours you spend in bed each night, it might be time for an exam with your doctor.
#6 Irritability and depression
People with prediabetes often find themselves getting irritated or angry much more easily than usual, or feeling discouraged and depressed without reason. Sometimes they can’t quite figure out what’s wrong with them. This can be a problem because these feelings make it less likely that people will want to stick to their treatment plan, according to Melnick. In fact, studies have shown that when people start on medication for diabetes — which lowers blood sugar levels — they are less likely to stay on it if they feel miserable. Melnick suggests not only finding ways to lower stress but also taking steps to improve your mood, including getting enough sleep, staying physically active, and managing any mental health issues you may have.
#7 Blurred vision; reduced focus
If you’re one of those people who can no longer read tiny text, it might be because your prediabetes is starting to impact your vision. When prediabetes becomes full-blown diabetes, changes in vision are common. Early on, you may experience blurred vision or have trouble seeing clearly at night. This is sometimes due to an issue with your blood sugar and can often be improved by eating healthier and exercising more regularly. If your eyesight problems are caused by something other than blood sugar imbalances, be sure to schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible so he or she can run tests and find out what’s going on. If left untreated, chronic issues with eyesight could even lead to blindness over time.