Diabetes is a widespread condition in overweight and obese patients, and it is the last stage of the metabolic syndrome, a series of alterations in the metabolic control of energy sources. There are two types of diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes has a strong genetic background and has its onset during adolescence or before that time. Type 2 diabetes is a growing metabolic problem concerning insulin function that turns out to be irreversible after reaching the point of affecting the capacity of the pancreas to release insulin. The signs and symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes are similar because they both feature an excess of glucose in the blood and would only have mild differences in severity.
These are the most important signs and symptoms you would encounter in diabetes mellitus:
It is one of the most common symptoms in the early stage of type 2 diabetes and will be experienced throughout the disease in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes when the disease is not controlled. The reason why this symptom appears is that the kidneys are trying to level the glucose levels by pouring glucose into the urine. There’s more solute in the urine and water is dragged along automatically and eliminated as urine.
Incontinence in older adults
Excessive urination in older adults is often accompanied with incontinence, especially in women who gave birth to more than 2 children. This is because the pelvic floor is weakened and the nervous control to prevent a leak might become impaired as well by the disease.
Another result of excessive urination is excessive thirst. These patients may be mildly dehydrated and often feel the urge of drinking more water throughout the day. Thirst is the normal response the body has to fluctuating levels of water in the blood, but may not be present in older adults, who experience other dehydration signs and symptoms apart from thirst.
Dehydration symptoms in older adults
Older adults with diabetes might not feel the urge of drinking frequently, and since they are not likely to replenish their body water, they quickly go from mild dehydration to moderate dehydration featuring dry skin and dry hairs, dry mouth, and brittle nails.
Hunger and thirst are both the landmark of type 2 diabetes, and they appear in poorly controlled type 1 and type 2 diabetes as well. This symptom typically results from an alteration in the intake of glucose inside the cells. In simple words, glucose is unable to enter cells and activate cell processes as it normally does. The body is led to believe that there are not enough nutrients in the blood and triggers hunger as a defence mechanism to increase energy production.
Low energy levels
As we have mentioned, the cells in type 2 diabetes do not behave the same way because they become unable to absorb insulin from the bloodstream and produce energy. Thus, patients feel drowsy and tired with low energy levels and propensity to sleep. It is common to experience concentration problems and similar issues in older adults as well.
We typically associate diabetes with obesity, and it is true in the first stage of the disease because obesity leads to diabetes. However, when diabetes is already present, the organism becomes unable to respond to glucose the same way. Fat cells do not have insulin to take in the glucose and turn it into fatty acids, and cells burn down their reserves to make up with the energy shortage. Thus, the body of the patient becomes inclined to lose weight as the disease progresses and in poorly controlled patients.
Another feature most people talk about is impaired healing or slow healing. This results from an alteration in the circulation of the body. The small blood vessels are deeply affected by the rising sugar levels and won’t be able to transport coagulation factors and other blood particles needed to heal wounds.
Numbness sensation in the feet
In diabetes, there’s a vascular and nervous alteration at the same time, and it is more pronounced in the lower extremities. Numbness is a sign of nervous alteration, and it is often accompanied by an impaired sensory function.
Increased risk of infections
Immunity is also compromised in diabetes, and since there is too much glucose in the blood, the body starts feeding bacteria, viruses and parasites instead of fighting them. The most common infections in diabetes are yeast infections, urinary infections and respiratory infections.
There is a wide range of visual alterations in diabetes. In the first stage of the disease, when diabetes has not been diagnosed, visual alterations result from an increase in blood glucose and the resulting change in the aqueous solution inside the eye. In late-stage disease, it may be caused by irreversible damage to the retina and may even lead to total blindness.
Confusion in older adults
Neurologic alterations as a result of diabetes may become more pronounced in older adults as an especially susceptible population. They usually experience mild confusion and poor concentration levels, but may also have severe memory loss and become lethargic with an impaired level of consciousness.
Gum and dental diseases
Inflamed gums and infections in the oral cavity is sometimes an important leading sign of diabetes, especially in older adults. Unlike younger patients, they have a slower and less responsive immune system and become more likely to undergo infections in additional body parts, such as the oral cavity.
Trying to diagnose diabetes requires not only examining these signs and symptoms but also considering the lifestyle and habits of the patient, his risk factors and lab tests. Thus, if you’re experiencing one or more of these symptoms, it does not mean you have diabetes. It only means you need to go to your doctor, talk about them and describe them to the best of your ability. Even if you’re not able to catch diabetes before its onset, diagnosing the disease earlier and starting your treatment as soon as possible reduces your chance of complications and your quality of life. If you do this, it will be possible to live a healthy and normal life with diabetes.