Knowing the Warning Signs of Undiagnosed Diabetes in Elderly People
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Knowing the Warning Signs of Undiagnosed Diabetes in Elderly People

Diabetes is a serious medical condition that affects millions of people worldwide. The elderly population is particularly at risk for developing diabetes. As such, family members and caregivers need to be aware of the signs and symptoms associated with diabetes to ensure early diagnosis and proper treatment. 

Understanding Diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic condition in which the body can't properly use or produce enough of the hormone insulin. Insulin helps regulate blood sugar levels, so blood sugar levels become too high when there's not enough of it. Diabetes is usually divided into two main types: type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes (also known as juvenile diabetes) typically affects younger people and occurs when the body doesn't make enough insulin due to an autoimmune reaction. This type of diabetes cannot be prevented. On the other hand, type 2 diabetes usually affects adults over 40 years old and occurs when cells don't respond well to insulin. This form of diabetes can often be prevented with lifestyle changes like eating healthy meals and exercising regularly.

Symptoms and Warning Signs

Both types of diabetes share similar symptoms. In senior adults, you may want to look for a number of common warning signs. 

Increased Thirst

Often, seniors with undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes will struggle with high levels of thirst. They may drink a great deal of water and still feel thirsty. Caregivers should pay particular attention to increased thirst coupled with very frequent urination. 


Often, undiagnosed diabetes leads to a considerable rise in fatigue. Seniors with diabetes may feel tired all the time or even show signs of exhaustion despite not engaging in unusual activities. 

Weight Loss Without Cause

Many conditions can cause weight loss in seniors, including changing medications or dealing with medical complications of other conditions. Seniors may also try to lose weight deliberately, especially if they have underlying health concerns. However, abrupt weight loss without a clear cause could be a symptom of diabetes. 

Blurred Vision

Seniors with undiagnosed diabetes may have challenges with blurred vision. Caregivers may notice senior loved ones struggling to bring their vision into focus or having difficulty with close-up tasks and seeing things further away. 

Numbness or Tingling in the Hands and Feet

High blood sugar levels can lead to considerable nerve damage, or neuropathy, over time. In many cases, seniors will note numbness or tingling more frequently as blood sugar rises more out of control. 

Slow-Healing Cuts and Sores

Often, uncontrolled blood sugar can make sores heal more slowly. Those sores may also be more prone to infection. Caregivers may notice that those sores seem to take much longer than usual to heal. 

If you notice any of these signs in an elderly person you know or care for – even if they don't have a diagnosis yet – it is critical to bring them to their doctor immediately for further evaluation as soon as possible. 

Risk Factors for Older Adults

The risk factors associated with developing undiagnosed diabetes are different among older adults than those at other ages due primarily to age-related conditions such as:

  • Poor diet habits (like skipping breakfast or other meals)
  • Physical inactivity/sedentary lifestyle over the senior's lifespan, which can lead to overall low muscle mass
  • Genetic disposition toward certain diseases, including diabetes
  • Related health issues

Seniors may also face additional risk factors, including being overweight, having pre-diabetic metabolic syndrome, using medication that affects glucose metabolism, smoking cigarettes, and increased alcohol consumption. 

Senior Care Providers Can Help Monitor for Symptoms of Diabetes

If you or someone you know is a senior citizen and showing signs of diabetes, it's important to contact a healthcare provider right away for further evaluation. Early detection and diagnosis are essential to successful treatment.

In-home care services can also provide invaluable support for seniors living with diabetes. At Senior Helpers South Coast, we specialize in providing high-quality in-home care services to seniors in Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Mission Viejo, Costa Mesa, or Laguna Nige with chronic conditions like diabetes. Our caregivers are highly trained and experienced in assisting seniors with all aspects of their daily lives, from medication management to meal planning and preparation. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your loved one live a happy, healthy, and independent life at home.