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Diabetes in Older People: Symptoms and Treatment

Diabetes in Older People: Symptoms and Treatment

Insulin is an extremely important hormone produced by the pancreas, which helps regulate the amount of glucose in the body, thus providing energy to the cells. Diabetes, even though it is common, is a serious ailment, which happens when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin. As a result, the blood sugar level increases. While type 1 diabetes is mostly genetic and a result of autoimmune conditions, which makes it prominent in children, type 2 diabetes in older people is much common.

A study was held jointly by WHO, Harvard University, and World Bank in the year 1990, which showed how unhealthy lifestyle can lead to type 2 diabetes. Given this type of diabetes is dependent on various conditions that affect your body and system over time, the result is visible with age. Type 2 diabetes is closely associated with age. Hence, diabetes in older people is more common than we would like to acknowledge.

Diabetes: The risk factor of age

There are four types of diabetes that one should know of:

Prediabetes: This is not diabetes. Rather, this is a precursor to diabetes. This happens when the blood sugar levels are high, but not enough to be termed as diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes: This one occurs due to genetic conditions or autoimmune diseases. This is a more serious form of diabetes and can occur in children. It requires constant medical intervention.

Type 2 diabetes: This happens over time due to an unhealthy lifestyle, which includes unhealthy food and lack of physical activity. Age is another major factor as old age diabetes is fairly common. In many cases, prediabetes, if not diagnosed and treated on time also turns into type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes can be treated with minimal medical intervention and lifestyle changes. However, age is one factor that may define the level of medical procedures that might be necessary.

Gestational diabetes: This is a very rare form of diabetes that occurs in pregnant women. More than the mother, the child is at risk here as the high blood sugar can pass on to him/her via the placenta.

For now, let’s concentrate on diabetes in older people.

Diabetes in older people is scary and severe. The age factor brings many other problems, which when combined with diabetes, deteriorates the bodily functions. There are additional complications such as chronic pains, memory issues, incontinence, heart complications, nerve issues, digestive problems, and more. All of it together wrecks havoc on a body that is already rendered weak and vulnerable due to age. That’s why diabetes in older people needs a keen eye so that proper and consistent care is provided.

Of the aforementioned types, there are possibilities of prediabetes, type 1, and type 2 diabetes in older people. Let’s take a look at how each affects them and how it can be treated with precautions and medication.

Prediabetes and type 2 diabetes in older people: Symptoms, precautions, and cure

Prediabetes is when your blood sugar level is high, yet not high enough to pass off as diabetes. Since type 1 diabetes is a standalone condition, prediabetes usually develops into type 2 diabetes if left unchecked.

It is noted that several older people have prediabetes, which means they are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes and related complications. This is because the risk factors including increasing age start showing signs of insulin imbalance and resistance. The risk factors and causes of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes are similar. These are:

  • Genetics can be blamed in some of the cases. If there is a family history of high blood glucose, chances are you may inherit it. However, the intensity of it depends on your lifestyle.
  • Inactivity may be another reason. Diabetes in senior citizens, or in this case, prediabetes, is often caused by an unhealthy lifestyle, which includes lack of exercise.
  • Obesity and excess fat also contribute to prediabetes and diabetes in people of older age.
  • Irregular sleep pattern is also responsible for triggering diabetes in older people, prediabetes included. Various researches and studies have concluded that the ones with a regular sleep cycle have lower blood glucose as compared to the ones who have an irregular one.

Once prediabetes turns into type 2 diabetes, the following old age diabetes symptoms can be observed:

  1. Frequent hunger pangs and thirst
  2. Constant fatigue
  3. Blurry vision
  4. Frequent trips to the toilet for urination

The best way to prevent this preliminary form of diabetes and type 2 diabetes in older people is to immediately alter the diet to include foods and fruits with more nutrients and fibre. Also, cutting down processed foods, artificial sweeteners, and salt is recommended.

If prediabetes develops into type 2 diabetes for older people, the risk of further conditions is inevitable. This happens because the older one gets, the weaker is the immune system. This coupled with other health issues and medications often escalates the blood sugar level and results in some sinister conditions such as kidney failure, stroke, adult-onset blindness, and even amputation of limbs in certain cases.

The treatment mostly involves getting a lifestyle in order. Prediabetes does not need anything more than that unless your doctor suggests otherwise. In the case of type 2 diabetes in older people, depending on the severity of the case, medical treatments like metformin, insulin therapy, and more may be prescribed.

Old age diabetes should not be taken lightly.

Type 1 diabetes in older people: What should you know?

Now let’s talk about type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes usually happens in children due to autoimmune diseases, wherein the ability of the pancreas to release insulin gets affected. As a result, blood sugar levels shoot up. Although most of the adult diagnoses over the age of 40 are of type 2 diabetes, in some rare cases, type 1 diabetes may also pop up. So, how do you recognise type 1 diabetes in people of older age?

Some warning signs are:

  1. Drastic changes in the mood
  2. Frequent trips to pee
  3. Blurry vision
  4. Constant lethargy
  5. Sudden weight loss without any workout or dietary changes

The presence of the aforementioned signs may indicate the existence of type 1 diabetes. This can further lead to more serious conditions such as kidney damage, heart disease or stroke, nerve damage, eye damage, foot damage, hypoglycaemia, and more. All of these conditions can happen due to poor blood flow in the body, which can damage nerves and organs.

In most cases, type 1 diabetes in older people is treated via pumps and injections, much like the treatment followed in children and adolescents. However, the doses and frequency depend on how serious the condition is. The main purpose of treating type 1 diabetes is to provide insulin to the body as it is not being produced naturally.

Diabetes, especially in older people, can turn serious and even fatal. Thus, it is extremely important to notice every change in mood and body and look out for any warning sign so that this demon can be nipped in the bud.

How can you recognise and treat it? Do you have any thoughts or suggestions to share which we may have missed? Do let us know in the comments below.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Age is an Important Risk Factor for Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus and Cardiovascular Diseases / https://www.intechopen.com/books/glucose-tolerance/age-is-an-important-risk-factor-for-type-2-diabetes-mellitus-and-cardiovascular-diseases / Accessed on 20/05/2020

Approaches to caring for older people with diabetes / https://www.drwf.org.uk/news-and-events/news/approaches-caring-older-people-diabetes / Accessed on 20/05/2020

Seniors And Diabetes: A Complete Guide / https://www.aging.com/seniors-and-diabetes-a-complete-guide/ Accessed on 20/05/2020

Diabetes in Older People / https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/diabetes-older-people / Accessed on 20/05/2020

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Written by Nikita Updated 04/06/2021
Medically reviewed by डॉ. स्नेहल सिंह
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