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April 2024

Feeling Your Age? Your Diabetes Might Be, Too

You may notice a few more gray hairs or wrinkles as the years pass. But it’s the changes you can’t see that are often more important.

If you have diabetes, age-related changes inside your body may affect how you respond to medicine in ways you didn’t expect. With some diabetes medicines, the dose you need might change. With others, you might experience side effects.

To stay on top of any changes as they occur, work closely with your diabetes care team. Here are some things you may want to discuss.

Uncontrolled diabetes can mimic the effects of aging

Following the right treatment regimen for you is crucial. Over time, poor blood sugar control can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, nerve damage, and vision problems.

Plus, uncontrolled diabetes may contribute to other health issues that are often associated with growing older, such as:

  • Forgetfulness

  • Hearing problems

  • Tiredness

  • Dry, itchy skin

If you develop these kinds of symptoms, don’t assume they’re just due to normal aging. See your healthcare provider to find out what’s behind the problem. If poorly controlled blood sugar is a factor, discuss how to get it under better control.

Your treatment needs don’t always stay the same

Metformin is often the first pill you try for treating type 2 diabetes. If metformin alone isn’t enough, you may need to add another type of medicine.

As you age, several factors could affect your response to a diabetes drug. Your body may not process and eliminate the medicine as well as when you were younger. Plus, your diabetes medicine may interact with other medicines you take.

Some people require a lower dose of diabetes medicine as they get older. Often, when they start a new diabetes medicine, the provider might prescribe a low dose. The provider can then slowly adjust the dose as needed.

Every body is different, so work with your provider

Let your diabetes care team know if you are having trouble meeting your blood sugar goals. Also, tell your provider if you develop new symptoms that could be side effects of your medicine, even if you’ve been taking it with no problem up until now.

As the years go by, you and your diabetes can age gracefully together.

Managing side effects of diabetes medicines

Talk with your provider about any medicine side effects that arise. Your provider may adjust the dose or discuss the following with you:

  • Diarrhea, gas, and other digestive complaints may be from medicines such as metformin or other diabetes medicines. These problems can sometimes be solved by taking the medicine with meals.

  • Weight gain may occur with some types of diabetes pills, including sulfonylureas. Healthy eating and regular exercise can help stave off unwanted pounds. 

  • Hypoglycemia refers to blood sugar that falls abnormally low. In many cases, you can prevent hypoglycemia with strategies such as eating following a meal schedule and checking your blood sugar often.



Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 1/1/2024
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