Diabetes in the elderly: our reality.

Isabel Paiva, Carla Baptista, Cristina Ribeiro, Patrícia Leitão, Manuela Carvalheiro


To evaluate the impact of the aging of our population in the growing of diabetes prevalence, among patients treated inward at our department.The clinical files of 242 diabetics older than eighty years, treated between 1999 and 2002 were studied retrospectively. Demographic (sex, age, year of first contact), clinical (causes of admission, co-morbidities, duration of diabetes, previous hypoglycaemic treatment, duration of hospitalisation and evolution) and biochemical (glycaemia, HbA1c, lipaemia and C-peptide) data were recorded.A progressive rising in the number of aged patients was found during this period (seven in 1999 to 55 in 2002), with a large proportion of women (73%). The more frequent causes of in-hospital treatment were hyperglycaemia (20.6%) and feet ulcers (septic or necrotic) (16.5%). In nearly 42% of the cohort an acute infection was found. Diabetes was unknown in 13% of cases and less than ten years of duration in 38%. In this cohort most of the patients (77%) were treated with oral hypoglycaemic drugs, mostly sulfonylureas. HbA1c mean value was 10.4 +/- 2.2%; C -peptide was measured in a subset of cases (n=79), suggesting deficient insulin secretion in 18% of them. The global mean duration of hospitalisation was eleven days. Nineteen patients (8%) died during the hospitalization.In this study, we concluded that diabetes in people older than 75 years, is being progressively more often diagnosed. The general metabolic control was bad (HbA1c mean value--10.4 +/- 2.2%), with a significant number of patients presenting a deficient C-peptide secretion, worsened by frequent coexisting infections. So, a strengthened clinical care, directed to a careful diagnosis and treatment, may effectively contribute to a better prognosis and quality of life of aged diabetic patients.

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