Common Medical Conditions in the Elderly

Updated April 17, 2017

Illness can be prevalent in the elderly, and some conditions can cause additional medical problems, high medical costs and a lack of independence. There are many common illnesses and conditions that seem to affect this population more than others. These conditions can impact an elderly person and their family in negative ways. Support from the family and medical community is necessary to overcome the conditions and complications that sometimes plague an elderly person.


Diabetes affects both the young and the old in the United States. However, diabetes affects the elderly population in greater numbers. Diabetes can cause complications for some and be more detrimental in the elderly population. For example, diabetes can affect cognitive abilities and cause poor circulation throughout the body, which can lead to loss of limbs or heart problems. Some elderly have difficulty controlling the disease because of a lack of education, low income or poor nutrition. However, controlling the diabetes through diet and/or medication is necessary to live a long and healthy life.

Urinary Tract Infection

Urinary tract infections (UTI) are common problems in the elderly, especially in elderly women. According to The Encyclopedia of the Aging and the Elderly, UTIs can be caused when the bladder does not empty fully. This can be caused by an elderly person's inability to move around as much, decreased nutrition or a weak bladder. Symptoms of a UTI can be urgency, pain or burning when urinating, fever, back pain, or even blood in the urine. During an acute UTI, an elderly person runs the risk of increased confusion or even kidney problems.

Congestive Heart Failure

According to The Encyclopedia of Aging and the Elderly, congestive heart failure (CHF) affects 3 to 4 million Americans, 75 per cent of whom are 60 and older. CHF usually develops gradually over time. However, CHF can lead to other chronic problems such as increased fluid build-up, respiratory problems and decreased functioning. These problems must be carefully managed by physicians and sometimes home health or telehealth services.


The Encyclopedia of Aging and the Elderly reports that hypertension occurs in 20 to 30 per cent of the population age 55 and older. It is a common and sometimes difficult to control problem for the elderly. Some of the symptoms of hypertension are headaches, palpitations and nosebleeds. If it is not kept under control, it can lead to strokes or damage to the heart.

Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's disease is also referred to by many elderly as "old timer's" disease. It is a condition that affects both the elderly and their families because of the functional and memory loss that occurs. Alzheimer's can come on gradually, but, when memory problems affect the person's ability to live a safe and normal life, other living arrangements may be needed. In fact, according to the Alzheimer's Association, half of assisted-living residents age 65 and older suffer from Alzheimer's or another form of dementia.

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About the Author

Kristie Jernigan is a health writer with over 17 years of experience as a medical social worker. She has worked mainly with the elderly population and with children. She holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology and early childhood from East Tennessee State University and a Master of Science in health care administration and gerontology from the University of Phoenix.