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Understanding health issues for diabetic seniors

by Shannon Lee

Diabetes can lead to complications, and those complications can be especially difficult for the elderly. Understanding the health issues faced by diabetic seniors can lead to more effective diabetes treatment.

As bodies age, insulin production goes down, and glucose intolerance becomes more common. For many seniors, Type 2 diabetes can be the result. Currently, 8.6 million Americans over the age of 60 are considered diabetic.

Diabetes Management and Complications

Many seniors might have suffered for years with diabetes before they were diagnosed. As a result, diabetic complications can be more prevalent. The following complications require prompt diabetic treatment:

* Vision Problems. Retinopathy, blindness, and other vision problems are more common in individuals with diabetes. Early intervention and medications can prevent vision loss.
* Heart Disease. Seniors with diabetes are at greater risk for heart attack, stroke, and problems resulting from poor circulation. Knowing the signs of heart disease could save a life.
* Nerve Damage. Neuropathy is damage to the nerves caused by diabetes. It can be present in any part of the body, but the feet and hands are most often affected. The best way to avoid diabetic neuropathy is to keep blood sugar levels under tight control.
* Foot Problems. Poor circulation and lack of feeling in the feet can allow the tiniest cut to turn into a serious ulcer. Always wear shoes and check feet daily with a mirror to pinpoint problems before they start.
* Kidney Disease. High blood sugar levels are tough on the kidneys. Prevent kidney failure by watching blood sugar levels closely. Levels too high? Talk to the doctor immediately.
* Gastroparesis. When the nerves in the stomach are damaged, it can take longer to digest food. The best way to avoid nerve damage is to keep blood sugars within the normal range.
* Gum Disease. Up to 80 percent of adults develop gum disease during their lifetime. For people with diabetes, the risks are even greater. Proper oral hygiene is the best way to avoid this serious complication.
* Skin Disorders. Up to one-third of those with diabetes may suffer a skin disorder. However, most are completely treatable if caught early enough.
* Depression. Sadness that lingers for weeks could be signs of serious depression. If diabetes treatment feels overwhelming, it's time to talk to the doctor about options.

Diabetes Treatment and the Elderly

The health problems of seniors with diabetes can be exacerbated by other medical conditions, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol. A vigilant doctor can help keep it all under control with a good diabetes management plan tailored for an individual's specific needs. Frequent monitoring of blood sugar levels, regular lab work, and a healthy lifestyle can help elders lead a long, healthy life free of diabetes complications.