August 17, 2022

Symptoms of Diabetes in Older Adults

Written by: Omnia Tantawi, MSc

Diabetes mellitus is one of the most serious diseases and common diseases out there. Unfortunately, the number of new cases in senior adults (65 years or older) is increasing every day. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), it’s estimated that 15.9 million or (29.2%) of patients who have diabetes are elderly patients. That being said, there are many ways to manage this condition and prevent further diabetes-related complications.1

 

What are the Symptoms of Diabetes Mellitus in the Elderly?

Diabetes is characterized by high blood glucose levels that are hard to regulate and in elderly patients, they manifest in the following signs and symptoms:

  • Increased thirst
  • Excessive urination
  • Slow healing wounds
  • Constant fatigue
  • Dizziness and fainting
  • Headaches
  • Numbness and tingling sensation
  • Trouble with vision (blurry vision)
  • Gum problems
  • Increased appetite
  • Dry mouth

It’s important to get checked out by a doctor and undergo diagnostic tests if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms. Since early diagnosis goes a long way to preventing future complications from developing down the road, the ADA recommends regular screening every three years for people who are 45 years or older.
 

What Can you Do if you’re Experiencing Any Diabetes Symptoms?2–7

If you’re experiencing any of the previously mentioned symptoms, you need to consult your doctor right away so that they can perform the proper tests and plan the best treatment and management strategy most suitable for you.

To confirm a diagnosis of diabetes mellitus, your doctor will use one of the following tests:

A1C test. This test is designed to measure the average or accumulated blood glucose levels in your blood for the duration of two to three months.

Fasting blood glucose test. You have to fast at least 8 hours before taking this test to measure your blood glucose levels without any stimulants and compare it to the normal value. If you’re a diabetic, your blood glucose level will generally be higher than normal.

Random blood glucose test. This test lies on the same premise as the fasting blood glucose test, except you, don’t have to fast for this one. However, the normal range used for comparison is different.

Oral glucose tolerance test. The idea behind this test is to determine how your body reacts to glucose. In this test, you’ll be required to measure your blood glucose levels before and two hours after you drink a glucose drink.
 


How do you Treat Diabetes in the Elderly?

According to the National Institute of Aging, diabetes treatment is different for each patient according to several factors which include patients’ age, medical history, overall health, other associated comorbidities, the severity of the diseases, and previous treatments. However, they generally involve lifestyle changes, exercise, and medications (insulin or metformin).8

So, it’s best to follow up with your healthcare provider to prescribe the best treatment and management plan for you.
 


Diabetes in Seniors and Depression

Older adults are especially vulnerable to developing cognitive impairment and depression if they have diabetes compared with other seniors their age who don’t have diabetes — which makes it very challenging to apply self-care and comply with management practices.

This condition is known as diabetes distress when the patient feels like their disease is controlling them instead of the other way around.

Nevertheless, patients can seek support from their doctors, help groups, or loved ones to help them through this.
 


Caring for a Diabetes Senior

If you’re caring for a diabetes senior, you can help them manage their disease and alleviate their symptoms through the following best practices:

  • Diet: the American Diabetes Association (ADA) can help with healthy food recipes and the best shopping products to buy.
  • Medication: you can remind them of their medication and set up a schedule to avoid missing a dose.
  • Monitoring: Regular and compliant glucose monitoring is very important to keep track of the body’s response.
  • Physical activities: Encouraging them to get regular exercise can be very beneficial in their recovery to normalize their blood glucose levels and help them lose weight.
  • Changing their lifestyle: This will differ from patient to patient according to their daily routine but cutting out some habits can significantly improve their quality of life like stopping smoking or drinking sugary or alcoholic drinks.

 


To Sum Up

Older adults are at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and its complications. This is mainly because they ignore their symptoms and classify them as getting older. However, early diagnosis and management of diabetes can go a long way to preventing severe life-threatening complications, like strokes, kidney failure, and depression.

Regular check-ups and looking out for diabetes symptoms are the best way to catch this disease early on and treat it. Moreover, you need to discuss your options with your doctor so that they can guide you to the best possible plan to manage this condition.
 


References

  1. Statistics About Diabetes | ADA [Internet]. [cited 2022 Aug 9]. Available from: https://www.diabetes.org/about-us/statistics/about-diabetes
  2. Chen F, Wei G, Wang Y, Liu T, Huang T, Wei Q, et al. Risk factors for depression in elderly diabetic patients and the effect of metformin on the condition. BMC Public Health [Internet]. 2019 Aug 7 [cited 2022 Aug 9];19(1). Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC6686369/
  3. Mooradian AD, Chehade JM. Diabetes mellitus in older adults. Am J Ther [Internet]. 2012 Mar [cited 2022 Aug 9];19(2):145–59. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21248617/
  4. Koo BK, Moon S, Moon MK. Muscle strength, an independent determinant of glycemic control in older adults with long-standing type 2 diabetes: a prospective cohort study. BMC Geriatr [Internet]. 2021 Dec 1 [cited 2022 Aug 9];21(1). Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34876063/
  5. Rizvi AA. Management of diabetes in older adults. Am J Med Sci [Internet]. 2007 Jan [cited 2022 Aug 9];333(1):35–47. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17220692/
  6. Yang Y, Hu X, Zhang Q, Zou R. Diabetes mellitus and risk of falls in older adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Age Ageing [Internet]. 2016 Nov 2 [cited 2022 Aug 9];45(6):761–7. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27515679/
  7. Leroith D, Biessels GJ, Braithwaite SS, Casanueva FF, Draznin B, Halter JB, et al. Treatment of Diabetes in Older Adults: An Endocrine Society* Clinical Practice Guideline. J Clin Endocrinol Metab [Internet]. 2019 [cited 2022 Aug 9];104(5):1520–74. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30903688/
  8. Diabetes in Older People | National Institute on Aging [Internet]. [cited 2022 Aug 9]. Available from: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/diabetes-older-people#managing

 

Article written by Omnia Tantawi, MSc
Omnia is an Assistant Lecturer and Medical Researcher from Egypt. She’s an integral part in many research projects that proved promising in revolutionizing the future of Medicine. As a Research Scholar, she’s particularly interested in Personalized & Molecular Medicine because she believes that this is the prospect of the healthcare industry and can be applied to all medical and pharmaceutical specializations. But at heart she remains a wordsmith, so she currently works as a Medical Writer. This transition was fairly easy with an Academic Medical background, ability to adapt to different audiences and passion for research and creation. She always takes the most complex or mundane topics and turn it into a must-read with an unparalleled style. In her free time, she likes to read books, tunes in Netflix or enjoys the outdoors.

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