A new study suggests that diabetes significantly increases the risk of physical disability in elderly patients.
The Australian research, published in the journal the Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology, found that older people with diabetes are roughly 50% to 80% more likely to develop a physical disability than those without the disease.
The finding was based on a review of 26 international studies involving thousands of patients. No distinction was made between type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes, but the authors did note that most of the studies included people aged 65 or more, who are more likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes mellitus.
Disability was defined as impaired mobility and difficulties with normal daily activities such as bathing, eating, shopping or using public transport.
The researchers said the mechanisms behind the link between diabetes and physical disability are still unclear, but several possible explanations have been suggested.
“It’s possible that the high blood glucose concentrations experienced by people with diabetes might lead to chronic muscle inflammation, eventually resulting in physical disability, and some studies have shown that diabetes is associated with rapid and worsening muscle wasting,” said lead author Dr Anna Peeters, of the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne.
“The complications associated with diabetes, such as heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease can also result in disability.
“As the world’s population ages, and diabetes becomes more common, it seems clear that we will see an increased need for disability-related health resources, which health systems around the world need to be prepared for.”
Dr Matthew Hobbs, head of research at Diabetes UK, said the findings underline the importance of “preventing type 2 diabetes and ensuring that all people with diabetes have access to the right care “.

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