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Effects of Diabetes on the Elderly

Diabetes affects nearly 20% of Americans over the age of 65, according to Diabetes.org. Another quarter of the senior citizen population fits the criteria for impaired glucose intolerance (insulin resistance) due to the general effects of aging, weight gain and more sedentary lifestyles. And almost half of the elderly with diabetes fail to properly control their blood glucose levels.

In addition to the rise in those diagnosed with diabetes, the cost of treating the disease is increasing due to the aging population, obesity and more aggressive treatment. In fact, the estimated cost of diabetes in 2007 was about $174 billion, and the average out-of-pocket annual expense for a person with diabetes was nearly $12,000.

With the incidence of diabetes on the rise, and treatment costs increasing at astronomical rates, diabetes care is becoming an increasingly important concern for the U.S. healthcare system. Unfortunately, the symptoms and effects of diabetes on the elderly can be more difficult to identify for a variety of reasons – and treatment can be more complicated, too.

Understanding the symptoms of hyperglycemia and hyperglycemia will help you better understand the effect of diabetes on the elderly, as well as help you identify and treat the two most common diabetes-related emergencies found in the senior population.

Effects of Hypoglycemia and Hyperglycemia on the Elderly

The symptoms of diabetes in the elderly can be masked, making the disease more difficult to diagnose. Warning signs like increased thirst, frequent urination and vision problems may be overlooked because of the common affects of aging on the body. For example, a normal decrease in thirst due to age can offset the typical increased thirst experienced by people with diabetes. Changes such as mental confusion, incontinence and other health complications related to diabetes are more often the presenting symptoms.

Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) are the two most common, yet threatening, diabetes-related emergencies experienced by the elderly. Unfortunately, they are commonly overlooked because cognitive impairment, such as dementia or other mental illness can make it difficult for the elderly to recognize the symptoms of diabetes-related emergencies.