Understanding and Managing Type 2 Diabetes in Seniors

Diabetes is a disease that affects the way the body processes sugar, or glucose. Approximately 90 percent of people with diabetes have type 2, as opposed to type 1 or gestational diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Type 2 diabetes develops over years and can cause a number of complications, especially if not managed carefully.

Seniors with type 2 diabetes are at increased risk for complications.

Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes

Increased thirst and hunger are common symptoms of diabetes, as the body struggles to regulate the amount of sugar in the bloodstream and fuel the cells with energy. Urination may also increase as a result of the increased thirst. Weight loss is another common diabetes symptom, as the body may begin breaking down fat and muscle for energy when it’s unable to obtain sufficient fuel from the foods being consumed.

Blurred vision and an inability to focus may develop as the body pulls fluid from the eyes in an effort to decrease blood sugar levels. Dark patches may develop on the skin in certain areas, like the underarms and neck, which is a sign of insulin resistance. The immune system is also impacted by diabetes, so healing may be slowed and patients are often more prone to infections and illnesses after developing type 2 diabetes.

Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes

Aging is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes; roughly one in four people over the age of 65 have the condition. While genetics don’t guarantee that a person will develop diabetes, having diabetes in the family may put patients at higher risk for developing the condition when combined with other factors. Being overweight or obese is also a risk factor for developing diabetes. Stress may contribute to the development of diabetes.

Complications from Type 2 Diabetes

Diabetes can cause issues with vision, hearing, mobility, cognitive functions, nerves, and organs. Seniors may lose all or a portion of functions, especially if blood sugar isn’t well maintained. As organs such as the kidneys deteriorate, further complications can develop, such as anemia and high blood pressure. Nerve damage can cause numbness, which may prevent seniors from realizing when they have been cut or bruised.

Immune system complications can make it easier for seniors to catch illnesses and may prolong the duration of illnesses. Circulation problems can make it harder for the body to heal wounds and can increase the likelihood of developing infections.

Type 2 Diabetes Prevention

Since excess weight is a leading contributor to the development of diabetes, losing weight and maintaining a healthy body weight can help with type 2 diabetes prevention. Eating a nutritious diet and exercising regularly can assist with weight loss and help the body to continue to manage blood sugar levels properly. Reducing stress by establishing relaxing routines and introducing meditation or yoga may also be helpful.

Treatment for Type 2 Diabetes

After type 2 diabetes has been diagnosed, treating the condition properly and managing blood glucose levels can prevent complications. For some seniors, diet and lifestyle factors may be enough to manage the condition. For others, medications that stimulate insulin production, reduce insulin resistance, or make the body tissues more sensitive to insulin may be necessary.