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Starting the Dialogue with Your Aging Parents: Symptoms to Watch For

June 17, 2014

Have you noticed some changes in your aging parents? Here are a few that are usually associated with aging:

  • Blurred Vision
  • Hearing Loss
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Changes in Appetite
  • Frequent Urination
  • Skin changes

Are these changes due to aging, disease, or an acute condition?

Recently I read an article that described all of the above and attributed them to Diabetes Type 2 (formerly known as adult onset diabetes). Over the years the rise in the number of diabetes cases has been blamed on genetics and/or obesity. We now know that aging plays a huge role in the onset of diabetes so medical providers and health care workers are working diligently to alert people to the risks of prediabetes and how to reduce the rate of progression to full-blown diabetes.

Changes in vision can be attributed to many things such as cataracts, glaucoma, excessive exposure to glaring sunlight, eye strain and multiple other causes. Visual changes may also signal diabetes due to alteration in the shape of the lens of the eye caused by a build up of glucose in the blood (excessive blood sugar).

Hearing loss may be a result of diabetes due to nerve or blood vessel damage. If your aging parent starts saying that everyone around them is mumbling or they can’t hear as well as they used to get them tested for diabetes. Individuals with diabetes have twice the incidence of hearing loss as opposed to those who do not have the disease.

The body uses carbohydrates for fuel (energy) so when the body isn’t utilizing that fuel effectively, as in diabetes, fatigue ensues.  Chronic hunger is another symptom of diabetes for the same reason. Food may be consumed in large quantities, but if the body is not metabolizing the food into energy other senses in the body send signals to continue eating.

Irritability goes hand in hand with fatigue. Even those without diabetes get irritable when fatigued, but usually getting enough rest will erase the fatigue and irritability eases. If you notice ongoing fatigue and irritability in your parent the prudent response would be to have them tested for diabetes.

Frequent urination and excessive thirst have been known as hallmarks of diabetes for years. Don’t assume it’s just because of an aging bladder or summer heat. Kidney disorders are a serious complication of diabetes and can result in the need for dialysis if left untreated.

Skin changes may include dry patches, changes in color, or even textural changes. Sometimes areas around the neck and ankles may turn a darker color or feel velvety. Cuts and bruises may take longer to heal, or not heal at all, due to damage to blood vessels. There may be areas of numbness and tingling for no apparent reason especially in the hands and feet. All of these are sign of possible diabetes.

It should be noted that all of the above symptoms may also occur as a result of other chronic diseases or stroke.

I bring that to your attention because I do not want you, or your aging parents, to engage in self diagnosis. It is important that any of the above symptoms be evaluated by a medical provider and treated accordingly. My major point is to alert you that these are not just normal symptoms of aging and should be taken seriously. Early recognition and proper treatment can reduce the impact of these symptoms and also decrease the possibility of further complications.

The easiest way to decrease the risk of developing any chronic disease, regardless of your age or the age of your parents, is to engage in eating healthy foods in their most natural state and engaging in moderate physical activity for a minimum of 150 minutes per week. For more information please check out the extensive information available at http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes.

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Wishing you and your family good health.

 

 

 

 

 

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