Diabetes, a chronic metabolic disorder that affects the way our body turns food into energy, is becoming more common with each passing year. A recent ICMR study published in Lancet points towards this lifestyle disorder growing at an alarming rate in India with over 11 percent population affected by it. To prevent or manage the disease, it’s important to nip it in the bud. One must know the symptoms of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes and take immediate action for controlling blood sugar levels to protect from the harmful long-term effects of the disease. (Also read: How many steps people with diabetes should walk for managing blood sugar levels)
Some of the common symptoms of diabetes is feeling thirsty, excessive urination, weight loss, extreme hunger, blurry vision, numb hands or tingling feet, tiredness, dry skin among other signs. (Also read: International Yoga Day 2023: Yoga tips to manage blood sugar levels for people with diabetes)
However, experts say that diabetes can change with age and one must pay attention to its symptoms to fight the disease better. (Also read: Diabetes: Is headache a symptom of high or low blood sugar?)
“Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It can strike at any age, but the symptoms and complications may vary depending on your life stage. While many people are familiar with the usual symptoms of diabetes such as excessive thirst, frequent urination, and blurred vision, these symptoms can actually change with age. As you grow older, your body undergoes significant changes that can alter the symptoms,” says Dr V. Mohan, Chairman and Chief of Diabetology, Dr Mohan’s Diabetes Specialities Centre. (Also read: Can drinking milk protect you from diabetes? Here’s what you need to know)
Symptoms of diabetes in children
“As we age, our bodies go through a lot of changes. These changes can have an impact on the symptoms of diabetes. In infants and toddlers, symptoms of thirst will obviously not be expressed by them. Parents have to be alert to detect subtle changes like consuming large amounts of fluids. As they grow older, children start to experience increased thirst and urination. Children and teens are also susceptible to developing diabetes, although the symptoms may differ from those seen in adults. Type 1 diabetes is more common in children and it occurs when the body’s immune system attacks insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Symptoms of type 1 diabetes in children include frequent urination, excessive thirst, bedwetting (in younger kids), unexplained weight loss, fatigue and irritability,” says Uma Sakthy, Dietician, Dr Mohan’s Diabetes Specialities Centre.
Symptoms of diabetes in adults
Dr V. Mohan says in adults, the symptoms of diabetes can be similar to those experienced by children and teens but there could be other symptoms like fatigue, tiredness, itching in the genital region, weight loss, wounds that won’t heel etc. “It’s therefore important for individuals with diabetes to pay attention to their body so they can identify any new symptom,” says Dr Mohan.
“As adults age, their risk of developing diabetes increases. In fact, type 2 diabetes is often referred to as “adult-onset” diabetes because it typically develops in adulthood. One of the most common symptoms of diabetes in adults is frequent urination. This occurs because high blood sugar levels cause the kidneys to work overtime to filter glucose out of the bloodstream. As a result, excess urine is produced and individuals may need to use the bathroom more frequently.
Another symptom that may appear in adult diabetics is fatigue or lethargy. High blood sugar levels can interfere with your body’s ability to produce energy from food, leaving you feeling tired and sluggish throughout the day. Adults with diabetes are also at an increased risk for cardiovascular disease due to elevated blood sugar levels damaging blood vessels over time. It’s important for individuals with this condition to closely monitor their cholesterol and blood pressure levels as well,” says Dr Mohan.
“Managing diabetes as an adult requires close attention and discipline when it comes to diet and exercise habits. Working closely with a healthcare provider can help ensure that proper care measures are taken early on before any complications arise,” says Uma Sakthy.
Diabetes symptoms in older adults
“As we age, our bodies go through various changes that can affect our health. This is especially true for older adults who may be at higher risk of developing diabetes or experiencing complications from the disease. One common symptom experienced by older adults with diabetes is neuropathy, a condition that affects the nerves and can cause numbness or tingling in the feet and hands. This can lead to difficulties with balance and coordination, which increases the risk of falls. In addition to neuropathy, older adults with diabetes are also at increased risk for kidney damage (nephropathy) and eye problems (retinopathy). These complications can lead to vision loss and even blindness if left untreated,” says Dr V. Mohan.
“Managing diabetes in older adults requires a tailored approach that takes into account their unique needs and challenges. For example, many older adults have difficulty maintaining a healthy diet due to dental issues or lack of income. Medication adherence may also be challenging due to forgetfulness or mobility limitations. It’s important for healthcare providers to work closely with their elderly patients with diabetes to develop personalized management plans that address these barriers while still effectively controlling blood sugar levels,” says Uma Sakthy.
When to see a doctor?
It’s important to see a doctor if you suspect that you may have diabetes. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent serious complications from occurring.
“If you experience some of the common symptoms associated with diabetes, such as frequent urination, increased thirst, blurred vision or unexplained weight loss, it’s time to schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider.
In addition, if you’re over 45 years old and haven’t been tested for diabetes before, it’s recommended that you get tested regularly. This is especially important if you have other risk factors like obesity or a family history of the disease. People who already have diabetes should also see their doctor regularly for checkups and blood tests to monitor their condition. A doctor can help adjust medications or recommend lifestyle changes as needed. Remember that managing diabetes requires ongoing care and attention. Don’t hesitate to seek medical advice whenever necessary in order to maintain good health and quality of life,” says Dr V. Mohan.
“Remember that prevention is key when it comes to managing diabetes. Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight are all essential steps in preventing or managing this condition regardless of your age.
By staying informed about how diabetes symptoms change with age, you will be better equipped to manage the disease throughout your life and maintain optimal health for years to come,” says Uma Sakthy.