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It Is Never “Just” Diabetes

not-just-diabetesI have again asked our vice president for geriatric care manager services, Steve Steiber, Ph.D. to share his insights, this time about diabetes and some late-breaking news.  He has nearly two decades experience in pharmaceutical medical device consulting prior to joining CCM.


More than 11 percent or, or nearly 27 million, Americans have either diagnosed or undiagnosed diabetes according to the most recent data.  We include the “undiagnosed” in this figure, because anyone who has a consistently high A1C level (the measure of long term blood glucose) is creating an opportunity for other medical problems.  For anyone who is a caregiver to an older loved one, this “diabetes epidemic” should be all the more alarming, because the prevalence of diabetes and what is termed “prediabetes” more than doubles to nearly 27 percent of those 65 years of age or older.

The reason for the title of this posting is that diabetes is one of those medical conditions that seems to almost invariably be part of multiple diagnoses or medical conditions.  So if your older loved one has been diagnosed with either diabetes or prediabetes, you need to help them to manage diabetes as well as the other companion conditions.  For instance:

  1. Diabetes is associated with higher levels of chronic fatigue.  A recent study in the Netherlands found that these two conditions seem to go hand in hand, but they could not conclude that high blood glucose “causes” fatigue.  It is just more likely to be there if a person runs “high” on a consistent basis.
  2. Chronic kidney disease (CKD), a condition in which the kidneys progressively lose their ability to filter body fluids, is twice as common in people already diagnosed with diabetes.  Scientists suggest it is the glucose that binds to red blood cells in the blood stream that block and break down the micro-vascular tissue of the kidneys leading to CKD.
  3. High blood pressure and diabetes also tend to go hand in hand.  For the same reasons that the kidneys suffer from high blood glucose levels, all the other circulatory system is adversely affected.  And the negative synergy of poor circulation along with further hindrance to circulation create the potential for a real cascading of medical complications.
  4. Retinal eye compromise and its ties to diabetes complete the circulatory issues caused by consistently high blood sugar levels.  By blocking the tiny vessels that nourish the retina of the eye, diabetes effectively starves the eye causing a loss of vision or diabetic retinopathy.
  5. People with diabetes have a higher risk of depression than those without.  There is some speculation on how this happens,. but most professional agree that depression does not cause depression.  A fair number, however, state that the feeling of the unfairness of the disease or the loss in control over their diabetes and the associated anxiety cascade into depression.

Please let Steve know if you have any questions about diabetes, drugs, their side effects or the unique medical challenges faced by older adults or others with special needs.  Please email to:


Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families who need geriatric care management services in metropolitan Chicago.  Please email your questions to


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