Also known as: Pre-diabetes, impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), impaired fasting glucose (IFG)

What is prediabetes?

Prediabetes is a common condition that affects millions of Americans and is characterized by insulin resistance, rising blood sugar levels and possible health complications over time. People who have blood sugar levels that are higher than normal (between 100 to 125 milligrams per deciliter) are identified as having prediabetes, which means they are at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

What causes prediabetes?

Prediabetes is quite common. It’s estimated that around 84 million American adults have the condition. Prediabetes is caused by the same circumstances that result in type 2 diabetes, which is insulin resistance that leads to rising blood sugar levels. Insulin resistance can occur for several reasons:

  • Excess body fat, especially around the midsection
  • Physical inactivity
  • Hormonal disorders
  • Chronic stress
  • Lack of sleep
  • Genetics

Those with a family history of type 2 diabetes or older than age 45 are at an increased risk of developing the condition. Certain ethnicities are also at a higher risk than others.

What are the symptoms of prediabetes?

In most cases, prediabetes does not cause any symptoms. It would only be detected with a blood test called a basic metabolic panel to check for elevated blood sugar levels. In the rare instances that symptoms do occur, they include:

  • Skin tags
  • Darkened skin on the back, side of the neck or armpits (acanthosis nigricans)

Eye changes that can lead to diabetes-related retinopathy over time.

How can prediabetes affect children?

Prediabetes is less common in children than adults, but it is still a risk. Rates have doubled over the last 20 years due to increased weight and inactivity in children, among other factors.

What are prediabetes care options?

The primary treatments for prediabetes involve healthy lifestyle changes to get more active, eat nutritious foods and maintain a healthy weight. These steps can include:

  • Regular physical activity
  • Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet without added sugars
  • Not smoking
  • Reducing stress
  • Sleeping well
  • Losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight

In some cases, diabetes medications may be prescribed if healthy lifestyle changes are not helping to improve blood sugar levels, or you have other risk factors for diabetes.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: February 08, 2024 03:36 PM

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Camp Roaring Sun is a camp exclusively for children ages 6 through 11 with type 1 diabetes who are treated at Nicklaus Children's Hospital or the surrounding area. Learn More.