6 Signs of Diabetes for Seniors to Look Out For

6 Signs of Diabetes for Seniors to Look Out For

Have you ever wondered if you might have diabetes? You wouldn’t be alone in that question. It might seem like everyone knows someone who has diabetes – and maybe that’s because it’s so common. According to the Diabetes Research Institute, 34.2 million people have diabetes. That’s over 10% of the population of the United States! And that is only those who have an official diagnosis. The CDC suspects that another 7.3 million people have diabetes but don’t know it.1

The situation is even worse for seniors. Among those aged 65 and older, 29.2% had diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. That figure includes those who are diagnosed and undiagnosed.2

In most cases, elderly individuals who are diagnosed with diabetes have Type 2. This means that their body starts producing less insulin over time, or what insulin the body does produce is no longer used properly – that’s known as insulin resistance. And though sometimes diabetes can be controlled with diet and exercise, it might require oral medications or even injections of insulin to keep blood sugar levels within an acceptable range. A medical alert system with 24/7 emergency monitoring is a great choice for seniors and anyone living with diabetes.

How do you know if you have diabetes? A blood test can show your fasting glucose level (the level of sugar in your blood first thing in the morning, when it has been at least eight hours or so since your last meal) or your A1C (a measure of what your average blood glucose level has been over the last several months). Your doctor can look at those numbers to determine if you have diabetes or if you are at risk for developing it.

It’s possible to see signs of diabetes well before you get a diagnosis. Did you know that the initial signs of diabetes can be very subtle and often mistaken for effects of aging or different health conditions?

If you notice any of these 6 symptoms, talk to your doctor and get your blood sugar levels tested right away.

1.      Getting Up More Often to Use the Bathroom

As we get older, many of us tend to get up more often at night. Not only are sleep patterns disrupted with age, but you might also start having trouble holding a full bladder as long as you used to. While you might not notice the extra urination during the day, you will almost certainly notice it at night, when you have to get up out of your comfortable bed to use the toilet.

Why does this happen? As the glucose levels build up in the blood rather than being used by the cells as in days past, the kidneys start working harder to remove it. This means that urine builds up faster and you feel the urge to go more often. It might be an occasional thing at first, but as your blood sugar goes up and consistently stays at a higher level, the frequent urination becomes… well, even more frequent.

And that can be a problem in other ways, especially if you are getting up in the dark to stumble to the bathroom at night. Many falls occur when someone can’t see their way clearly or they are sleepy and a little disoriented as they are still waking up. A medical alert pendant, especially one with fall detection, can give you the peace of mind to know that in any situation, the monitoring center is there around the clock to help you.

Pay attention to how often you get up at night to use the bathroom. And try this experiment: cut back on your fluid intake after 6 PM or so. If you notice that you’re still getting up to use the bathroom at night, there could be a problem, and diabetes is a possible issue.

2.      Feeling Bone-Deep Fatigue

While it can be common to feel very tired from time to time, the deep fatigue that can come from diabetes is a whole different ballgame. When you have diabetes, every cell in your body is starved for energy. That means that nothing in your body is working as efficiently as it should be. That can include everything from the cells in your brain to those in your muscles.

That deep fatigue can make you want to sleep in every morning and go to bed early at night. It can make you want to take naps but even when you do, you don’t feel rested. It can even make your day-to-day movements feel sluggish and heavy, as though you are moving through water.

If you notice you are feeling this sort of fatigue, it’s time to talk to the doctor. Diabetes can be the culprit for this, but there are other conditions that could be the problem as well. It pays to get your blood sugar checked, but also to check out other things, such as your hemoglobin or vitamin D levels, to rule out other potential conditions.

Another point about that fatigue: it is not something to take lightly. Serious fatigue can lead to accidents, injuries, and falls. And any of those occurrences can mean serious problems, such as fractures or head injuries. Having an emergency response solution at your fingertips can allow you to reach out for help the moment a dire situation presents itself. That peace of mind can help you cope with the bone-crushing fatigue and other symptoms you might be feeling.

3.      Thirsty All the Time

When you have diabetes, your cells and your blood are constantly trying to find equilibrium. The blood has too much glucose in it and the cells don’t have enough. As your body tries to regulate that, the cells send what water they have to the bloodstream to try and dilute the glucose. But that leaves the cells not only lacking energy, but dehydrated as well.

The body’s solution is to send out a signal that you need more water, stat!

Suddenly, you can’t seem to get enough to drink. You’ll take a sip, then a gulp, and you’re still thirsty. No matter how much you drink, it never seems to be enough. You might even try flavored water or other beverages, thinking that perhaps plain water just isn’t satisfying enough, but the result is still the same. You just want to drink even more.

And of course, drinking more water means that you go to the bathroom more often – which adds to another symptom, frequent urination.

If you find yourself going through one glass after another, you might be dealing with diabetes.

4.      Feeling Itchy All Over

Those with diabetes tend to have drier skin than those who don’t have it. In addition, those who are dealing with diabetes might have issues with blood circulation, which can lead to less blood reaching the surface of the skin. That can lead to an itchy feeling all over.

But there are other, more specific types of itching that might start happening well before you are diagnosed with diabetes. Our bodies host bacteria everywhere, and much of that is actually quite healthy for us – but when you feed bacteria some sugar, it tends to grow exponentially.

That can lead to thrush, which is an overgrowth of bacteria somewhere on the body. Infections of the urinary tract are often an early sign of diabetes, as are recurring yeast infections in women. You might also notice other infections on your skin, especially where the skin meets and rubs together, such as underneath your arms.

If you notice that you’re dealing with urinary tract infections, yeast infections, and itching in general, you might also be dealing with diabetes. Go to the doctor to get treatment and while you’re there, ask about testing for diabetes.

5.      Wounds Take Longer to Heal

Let’s say you get a blister on your heel. In most cases, you’d forget about it within days as your body quickly did the work of healing. But when you have diabetes, the healing of that wound can take much longer, and instead of following the usual trajectory of healing, it might actually get worse before it gets better.

Why is that happening? There are a few reasons. First, when the cells aren’t getting the nutrients they need, they become sluggish and what they would normally do becomes more difficult. That means that the repair that usually happens quickly is now delayed as the body marshals all its resources to work on the problem.

But in addition, there could be problems with circulation that make it tough to heal anything, especially on the extremities. The tiny blood vessels in the feet are a very good example of this. Strong blood flow is necessary to help any part of the body heal, and when that blood flow is reduced, the healing process is stunted. That’s why a blister might linger for weeks instead of healing within days. 

It’s a good idea to consult your doctor when you notice that a wound isn’t healing properly. Not only can prompt treatment help you overcome the injury, it can also uncover a diabetes diagnosis.

If you are dealing with wounds or sores that don’t heal as quickly as they used to, especially on your feet, it’s time to consider a medical alert device. That’s because pain in your feet can lead to a change in your gait as you try to alleviate that pain, and the result can be a higher risk of falls. A senior life-saving alert system gives you the ability to reach out for help right away if you suffer a fall.

6.      Dropping Weight Without Trying

While some might see this symptom as a wonderful thing, the thrill of losing weight can hide something problematic when you’re dealing with diabetes.

When we eat any extra sugar, the body stores it in the fat cells. So when the other cells stop getting enough sugar, the body turns to those fat cells. It breaks them down to get the sugar reserves to other parts of the body. When those fat cells break down, the body loses weight.

The problem is not necessarily the weight loss, but the way it is happening. Losing weight because your cells are starving for the nutrients they need isn’t a healthy way to lose weight. So if you notice that you are losing weight but you aren’t really trying to, it’s time to talk to your doctor about your blood sugar levels.

What to Do If You Spot These Symptoms

While each of these symptoms could be quite subtle and might even be a sign of something else, it pays to get checked out as soon as you begin to think there might be a problem. Stay alert for these initial symptoms of diabetes. Write down your symptoms so you have a record of what is happening to you. Then speak to your doctor at your next visit about what you’re feeling and ask for blood tests to determine if you have diabetes or are at risk for it. Remember that with prompt and sustained treatment, you can live a very healthy life with diabetes. As always, Alert1 wishes you good health and abundant safety!