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One of the unfortunate things about type 2 diabetes is that classic diabetes symptoms—excessive urination and thirst, for instance—rarely occur until the disease is well advanced. This means diabetes often remains undiagnosed for many years, such that approximately 50 percent of patients already have dangerous diabetes-related complications by the time they are diagnosed. Yet doctors still view the disease as asymptomatic in its early stages. A new study, however, has found a distinct set of non-specific prediabetic symptoms that occur long before the onset of diabetes and independent of established risk factors, such as smoking, low physical activity, high cholesterol, and high body mass index.
The 8 Prediabetic Symptoms
Researchers from hospitals and universities around Germany followed 10,566 apparently healthy participants aged 25 to 74 for an average of 16 years. Symptoms were regularly assessed using an established questionnaire called the Somatic Symptom Scale-8.
The following eight prediabetic symptoms were measured on a four-point scale ranging from 0 (not present) to 3 (strong):
- Stomach or bowel pain
- Back pain
- Pain in the joints
- Headaches or pressure in the head
- Temporary shortness of breath
- Feeling tired
Total scores could range from 0 to 24.
During that study period, 974 participants were newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. The higher the symptom scores of the participants, the more likely they were to be diagnosed with diabetes. After the researchers took diabetes risk factors (such as hypertension, obesity, and physical inactivity) into account, the risk of getting newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes increased by 2 percent for every single unit increase in the symptom score. So, for example, compared to somebody with a score of five, a person with a score of 11 would have a 12 percent higher risk of becoming a diabetic.
A Warning of Poor Health, Inflammation, and Diabetes Down the Road?
The researchers concluded that this particular array of non-specific symptoms—stomach or bowel pain, back pain, pain in the joints, headaches or pressure in the head, temporary shortness of breath, dizziness, feeling tired, and insomnia—may be considered as possible prediabetic symptoms that warn of diabetes a long ways down the road.
They hypothesized that chronic, low-grade, body-wide inflammation is the common link between these prediabetes symptoms and other established diabetes risk factors such as obesity, physical inactivity, and high blood pressure.
What to Do if You Suffer from These Prediabetic Symptoms
If you suffer from the majority of these prediabetic symptoms and you haven’t had recent lab tests to check for prediabetes, you could be at risk. Visit with your healthcare provider soon and ask to be screened for prediabetes with tests for fasting glucose, fasting insulin, and hemoglobin A1c (which measures your average blood sugar levels over the last few weeks). The presence of this combination of symptoms can be used as a warning signal that some diet and lifestyle adjustments to reduce your risk of diabetes and other chronic diseases may be in order.
A good place to start would be working to reduce your consumption of refined sugars and grains. Avoid sweetened beverages altogether and greatly cut down on foods with added sugars and refined flours. Your health depends on it.
Read more about diabetes prevention and care in these articles:
- Cinnamon and Diabetes: Clearing the Confusion
- Support Your Diabetes Care with an ALA Supplement
- Benefits of Taking Zinc for Diabetes: Natural Blood Sugar Control and More
Share Your Experience
Do you have prediabetes symptoms? If you are diabetic, did you notice any of these symptoms before your diagnosis? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.
This article was originally published in 2015. It is regularly updated.