Diabetes includes a number of conditions that involve issues with the production of the hormone insulin. Your pancreas releases insulin to help your body store and use the sugar and fat you eat. In people with diabetes, their pancreas may produce very little to no insulin, or the body does not respond to insulin properly.

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), there are 1.4 million new cases of diabetes diagnosed each year. Approximately 26 percent of seniors 65 years of age or older have diabetes. This is equivalent to 11.8 million seniors.

Diabetes Symptoms

Type 1 diabetes is typically known as juvenile diabetes as it mostly affects children. Only 5 percent of all people with diabetes have Type 1. Type 2 diabetes means your body is not using insulin properly. Left unmanaged, the effects can be devastating and even deadly for seniors. Here are some signs and symptoms of diabetes in seniors:

  • Unexplained weight loss or weight gain. A person may eat more because his or her body is trying to regain the fuel that’s unaccounted for. Similarly, the opposite may happen, and an individual may not have much of an appetite.
  • Gum disease. Type 2 diabetes can cause red sore gums, and even infections.
  • Blurry eyesight. Type 2 diabetes affects an individual’s ability to focus, and in some, may cause blindness.
  • Feelings of constant tiredness and lethargy are common.
  • Numbness or “tingling” in arms and legs. Type 2 diabetes causes decreased circulation, which can cause nerve damage
  • Increased thirst. The excess glucose in the blood stream pulls necessary fluids from the body’s tissue, causing a feeling of dehydration and a frequent urge to urinate
  • Skin discoloration. Those with type 2 diabetes also tend to have acanthosis nigricans, which causes dark spots on a person’s body.

Causes of Diabetes

It is not exactly known what causes diabetes, but there have been some risk factors associated with the disease. Risk factors of type 2 diabetes include:

  • Obesity
  • Inactivity
  • Family history
  • Age
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • High blood pressure
  • Abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels

How is Diabetes Diagnosed?

There are a couple different tests that a doctor will perform to confirm a diabetes diagnosis. The most common test to diagnose diabetes is the glycated hemoglobin (A1C) test. This is a blood test that will show your average blood sugar level for the past two to three months.

If the A1C test results are inconsistent or the test was not available, a doctor may order one or more of the following tests:

  • Random blood sugar test
  • Fasting blood sugar test
  • Oral glucose tolerance test

Diabetes Treatments

There is no cure for diabetes, but there are lifestyle changes you can make as well as treatment methods to make sure you still have a high quality of life with the disease.

Here is a list of the treatments for diabetes in seniors:

  • Healthy eating/ Nutrition therapy
  • Physical activity
  • Blood sugar monitoring
  • Insulin therapy
  • Oral or injected medications
  • Pancreas transplant
  • Bariatric surgery

Related Articles

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a way to receive financial assistance for diabetes patients?

Yes, there is! Medicare can help those with diabetes pay for certain supplies and services through the Medicare Part B plan. Although a doctor’s prescription is needed, assistance can come through: 

  • Blood Glucose monitors and supplies
  • A1C tests
  • Eye examinations to check for related eye diseases
  • Flu shots
  • Diabetes management training
  • Nutrition services


See All Answers »

How does diabetes affect teeth and gums?

Untreated, diabetes can affect teeth and gum health poorly. With higher blood glucose levels, your saliva is much more prone to hosting harmful bacteria that can cause plaque, leading to tooth decay or cavities if left unchecked. Learning all you can about diabetes treatment options can go a long way!

See All Answers »

Find DIABETES Care In Your Area

Find Senior Caring Options by State
Finding the perfect senior care community is only part of making your loved one’s senior living transition smooth. At SeniorCaring, we know that it is also equally important to be aware of what other community services and resources are available to your family’s senior. Choose your location and find local resources for your senior.