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Over time, it has become obvious that the symptoms of aging present themselves differently in different people and at different ages. Also, different parts of the body tend to age at different rates. For example, some people will develop lung function problems as they age whereas others will suffer from memory loss. This makes it difficult to work out whether the symptoms a person is feeling are related to aging or to some other condition. Assuming that someone is simply being affected by age may prevent the diagnosis and hence treatment of relatively simple problems. In one case, a man in his late 80's was hospitalized for what was believed to be a heart problem. After his hospital treatment, the man suffered from increasing confusion. A geriatric specialist then began to suspect that his symptoms were not age related but due to medication. The man then ceased his heart medication and his symptoms cleared up totally. Some symptoms to be wary of are reduced appetite, reduced mental functioning, incontinence, falls, dizziness, pain and reduced functional ability (eg getting dressed or climbing stairs). Drug toxicity is a common cause of correctable symptoms that may be attributed to aging. As a person ages, their liver and kidney function becomes poorer as does their body's ability to process chemicals. This means that drug levels can quickly concentrate inside the body. Another condition to be aware of is infection. Elderly people tend to have lower body temperatures and infections that would cause fever and chills in younger people may present in older people as confusion or reduced functional abilities with no temperature change. Elderly pneumonia sufferers may present with symptoms such as rapid breathing, reduced appetite and reduced functioning. Elderly urinary tract infection sufferers may present with incontinence, confusion and may suffer from falls. If these symptoms are assumed to be related to aging, the infections may continue to ravage the body with sometime fatal consequences. Some symptom misdiagnoses to be aware of in the elderly include: reduced mental functioning over days of weeks may be caused by medication or side effects of anaesthesia; falls may be caused by heart problems, osteoporosis, vertigo, leaking brain blood vessel, hearing loss, vision loss, incontinence and toxic drug buildup (particularly psychoactive drugs, sedatives, blood pressure lowering drugs and drugs that reduce blood sugar level; dizziness may be caused by anemia, abnormal heart rhythm, drug toxicity, depression, infection, ear disease, eye problems, stroke, heart attack, brain tumor, drug toxicity or impacted wax in the ears; reduced appetite may be caused by progressive heart failure, the initial stage of pneumonia, depression and loneliness; delirium may be caused by drug toxicity, dehydration, reduced blood oxygen levels, anemia, nutritional deficiencies, infections, thyroid disease, vision loss and hearing loss; incontinence may be caused by urinary tract infections, limited mobility, metabolic abnormalities and medications such as diuretics and sedatives; reduced functional ability may be caused by anemia, thyroid disease, infection, cardiac insufficiency or reduced lung capacity.
Source: summary of medical news story as reported by Independent Record
About: Symptoms of old age may be similar to many other treatable conditions
Date: 25 January 2005
Source: Independent Record
Author: Jane Brody
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