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Treating Diabetes: Older Folks Have Different Issues, Says Chicago Researcher

Diabetes when you're old is not the same as diabetes when you're young. Yet too many doctors who treat the elderly, including those in nursing facilities, fail to recognize this.

Failure to diagnose can take many different forms. It does not only depend on the type of condition. It also depends, as the case of diabetes in the elderly shows, on a person's age.

A doctor at the University of Chicago, Elbert Huang, is both a primary care doctor and a researcher on diabetes. He is very concerned about the lack of clinical research on diabetes in the elderly - given that half of all people with diabetes are over 65.

If diabetes is untreated, one consequence can be very serious. One of them is kidney failure, which often leads to the need more dialysis treatment

Other potential complications include cardiovascular disease, eye damage and nerve damage. If nerve damage is to the foot, it can possibly require amputation.

Dr. Huang led a symposium this month at the annual meeting of the American Diabetes Association, seeking to call attention to the problem of taking care of diabetics in long-term care settings.

Nursing homes are by no means the only type of setting included in long-term care. People who are receiving home health care should be considered as well.

One reason diabetes is different in the elderly is that the risk of dementia is higher. It can also be hard to know how to balance quality of life in the here-and-now with uncertain prospects for the future. This of course has implications for daily diet, in people who naturally crave sweets (as all humans do), even though they have high blood sugar.

Source: "Diabetes in the elderly remains little studied," Philadelphia Inquirer, Stacey Burling, 6-10-12

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