What is diabetes and why do the elderly get diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic (long-term) disease that affects the way your body converts food into energy. Your body breaks down most of the food you eat into sugar (glucose) and releases it into your bloodstream. When your blood sugar rises, it signals your pancreas to release insulin. Insulin acts like a key that gets blood sugar into your body's cells for use as energy.
This disease occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin or is unable to use insulin properly, or a combination of both. When there is not enough insulin or the cells do not respond to insulin, too much blood sugar remains in your bloodstream (hyperglycemia). Over time, this can cause serious health problems such as heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease.
Chronic diabetes is common among the elderly, and its symptoms can range from mild to severe, affecting approximately 33% of people over 65 years of age.
Early diagnosis of diabetes can help prevent serious complications of this disease.
The most common type of diabetes in the elderly is type 2 diabetes. Almost half of people aged 65 or older suffer from. While the condition is serious at any age, older adults are at greater risk of developing diabetes-related complications, including hypoglycemia, heart disease, and kidney failure. This is why it is important for older people to know the symptoms of diabetes.
What are the symptoms of diabetes in the elderly?
The signs and symptoms of diabetes vary from person to person. Some people have mild symptoms that they don't notice, while others have obvious symptoms. Here are 10 warning signs of diabetes to know and watch out for.
- Increased thirst and urination:
diabetes causes the accumulation of excess glucose in the blood, which overstimulates the kidneys. In order to filter this glucose, the kidneys have to work harder to excrete excess glucose into the urine, which causes fluids to leave the body along with it, and this can cause a feeling of thirst more than normal (polydipsia) ,which makes you drink more fluids and urinate more often (polyuria).
- Excessive fatigue:
Another symptom of diabetes in the elderly is excessive fatigue. This is because when blood sugar levels are high, it becomes more difficult for the body to convert glucose into energy. Another cause of fatigue can be dehydration caused by diabetes.
- Wounds heal late:
cuts and bruises in some elderly people with diabetes heal at a slower rate than usual. Another warning sign is the development of ulcers (especially on the legs) and skin infections that do not clear up quickly. This may be due to impaired blood circulation caused by high blood glucose, which disrupts the body's natural healing process. Women with diabetes may also experience more bladder infections and vaginal yeast infections.
- Dizziness and/or fainting:
Elderly people with diabetes may experience a condition called hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia is defined as a blood sugar level below 70 mg. When blood glucose levels drop, it can cause weakness, dizziness, tremors, confusion, and even fainting. At this time, you can increase blood sugar quickly by drinking fruit juice or eating glucose tablets.
Our brain needs glucose continuously to function properly, which is not compatible with the drop in blood sugar and the sudden increase in blood sugar associated with diabetes. And this makes headache one of the common symptoms of diabetes in the elderly.
- Tingling sensation in hands and feet:
Almost half of people with diabetes have nerve damage, especially those who have had diabetes for years. The scientific name of this symptom is peripheral neuropathy, which can cause tingling, numbness, weakness, or even pain in the hands and feet.
- Blurred vision:
high blood glucose levels can pull fluid from the lens of the eye and make it difficult for them to focus. When this is not treated properly, it causes new blood vessels to form behind the retina, damaging the existing vessels and eventually, it can lead to complete or partial vision loss.
- Gum problems:
Another symptom of diabetes in the elderly is red, swollen and painful gums. Because diabetes can compromise the immune system, it increases the chance of infection in the gums and bones that hold the teeth in place. Some warning signs to look out for in addition to gingivitis include loose teeth, sores and pus-filled cysts in the gums.
- Increased appetite:
Another warning sign of diabetes in the elderly is hunger more than usual and an excessive desire for sweet foods - a condition called polyphagia. Polyphagia occurs when diabetes prevents food glucose from reaching your cells, causing you to feel hungry even after eating a large meal. This condition can cause you to eat more and increase blood sugar, which increases the desire for sugar.
- Dry mouth:
Dry mouth is another symptom of diabetes in the elderly. This unpleasant sensation occurs when your mouth is unable to produce enough saliva, often accompanied by dry, chapped lips and a rough tongue. This symptom of diabetes may appear and disappear with blood sugar fluctuations.
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