My dad eats lots of sweets and doesn't like to drink water--could he have diabetes?

1 answer | Last updated: Jan 19, 2012
A fellow caregiver asked...

My dad is 82 and has been diagnosed with dementia and depression but my mom and I think something else is wrong; some doctors suspect Alzheimer’s. He falls, eats loads of sweets, and doesn’t like to drink water or other liquids. Could he have diabetes.

Expert Answers

Theresa Garnero is clinical nurse manager of Diabetes Services at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco.

The only way to know for sure if your dad has diabetes is to get him checked for the condition. So ask his primary care doctor to perform this simple blood test. Most physicians do a fasting blood glucose test (that means going without food or calorie-containing drinks for eight hours, so it’s smart to schedule your dad’s appointment for first thing in the morning). A result of 99 milligrams or less of glucose per deciliter of blood (mg/dL) is considered normal. A score of 100 to 125 mg/dL is considered pre-diabetes, meaning his blood glucose level is higher than normal but not high enough for a diabetes diagnosis. People with pre-diabetes are at greater risk for developing type 2 diabetes, and for heart disease and stroke. And a reading of 126 or higher is in the range for a diabetes diagnosis.

As for symptoms, you should know that in the elderly in particular there are often no clues that a person has the disease. (Typical signs include fatigue, increased thirst or hunger, blurred vision, numbness or tingling in the feet or hands, or slow wound healing.) A sweet tooth isn’t a risk for or a sign of diabetes – that’s a common myth. Eating sweets may increase your dad’s weight, though, and excess weight can trigger diabetes in some people, especially if there’s a family history of the disease.

Finally, while it’s true that there’s a strong association between diabetes and depression -- and people with diabetes are at greater risk for both Alzheimer’s and dementia, the only way to confirm a diabetes diagnosis is by getting your dad tested. So put your mind at rest and make an appointment for your dad today.