Causes and Symptoms of Diabetes in Seniors

Jun 9, 2016

Causes and Symptoms of Diabetes in Seniors

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Diabetes affects 29.1 million people in the United States, and of that number, 8.1 million are not yet diagnosed with the disease. When diabetes is not managed, it becomes more dangerous for the individual who is suffering with it. This is why it is crucial for seniors and the loved ones of seniors to understand type 2 diabetes, the causes of the disease, and the symptoms to watch out for.

Understanding Diabetes in Seniors

Diabetes can be a difficult disease to understand and cope with, especially if it’s not something a senior has been dealing with his or her entire life. Simply put, diabetes is a metabolic disorder, in which the body is unable to produce ample amounts of insulin, causing elevated levels of glucose in the individual’s blood, and understanding how insulin affects the body will clear any confusion.

Understanding insulin and glucose is key to understanding type 2 Diabetes. When a person eats food, the body begins to break down everything that the individual ate, and carbohydrates are broken down into sugar molecules, or glucose. In turn, the glucose cannot enter the individual’s cells without the help of insulin, which is a chemical secreted into the bloodstream by the pancreas.  When an individual has diabetes, it means that his or her pancreas is not producing an adequate amount of insulin, or the body itself is resisting the insulin. This causes too much sugar to build up in the bloodstream, which causes a slew of symptoms.

No one knows for sure exactly what causes type 2 Diabetes, just that it affects both the pancreas’ ability to produce insulin, and causes the body to resist it. Despite this, there are many risk factors that physicians and medical researchers believe cause or contribute to type 2 Diabetes. Most believe that an individual’s likelihood of acquiring type 2 Diabetes is directly related to genetics and family history. Others believe that obesity and weight gain largely contribute to a person’s chance of suffering from type 2 Diabetes, along with age, diet and other risk factors.

Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes

While understanding the causes of type 2 Diabetes is extremely important for older adults, recognizing the signs and symptoms of the disease is equally important. Here are some of the signs and symptoms of type 2 Diabetes to look for in elderly individuals:

  • 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 at times.
  • Blurry Eyesight. Type 2 diabetes affects an individual’s ability to focus, and in some, may even cause blindness.
  • Fatigue. Feelings of constant tiredness and lethargy are common symptoms of type 2 Diabetes.
  • Numbness or “Tingling” in Arms and Legs. Type 2 diabetes causes decreased circulation, which then can cause nerve damage.
  • Increased Thirst. The excess glucose in the bloodstream pulls necessary fluids from the body’s tissue, causing a feeling of dehydration. This also leads to a frequent urge to urinate.
  • Infections. Diabetes makes it difficult for individuals to fight off infections and hinders the body’s ability to heal.
  • Skin Discoloration. Many individuals that suffer from type 2 diabetes also suffer from something called acanthosis nigricans, which causes dark spots on the person’s body.

The most important thing for seniors to understand about type 2 diabetes is that it is preventable in most cases. Understanding the causes, signs, and symptoms of the disease are the first steps in preventing it and making sure a senior is healthy. If an older adult is displaying any signs of type 2 Diabetes, he or she should contact a physician.

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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


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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!

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