Latest Developments: Diabetes and COVID-19

People with chronic health conditions (e.g., diabetes, heart disease) are more likely to experience complications from COVID-19. These underlying conditions, including diabetes, are also commonly referred to as “comorbidities”. Research has shown that those with diabetes are at higher risk for severe COVID-19. Severe COVID-19 means that a case may be more likely to develop more serious symptoms, have an increased likelihood for hospitalization, or have a higher risk of developing health complications as a result of the infection.

Why does diabetes increase the risk of severe disease?

  • More research on this topic is needed to pinpoint the exact reason(s) why diabetes increases the risk of severe COVID-19 infection. There is a strong link between severe COVID-19 disease and inflammation. 
  1. The more comorbidities present, the greater risk for severe COVID-19. 
  2. Those with diabetes may have impaired immune functioning, which affects an individual’s ability to fight off an infection, like COVID-19. 
  3. Uncontrolled diabetes can cause inflammation over time. 
  4. In addition, high glucose levels have been shown to change the responses of some of our immune cells, including macrophages and monocytes. The ACE2 receptor cells that allow the SARS-CoV-2 virus to invade are higher on these immune cells when high levels of glucose are present. Once the virus is inside the cell it then triggers the cytokine response. This “cytokine storm” is thought to be the primary reason for severe COVID-19 disease.

Does the risk of COVID-19 complications differ by diabetes type?

  • Those with type 2 diabetes are at an increased risk for severe COVID-19 illness. Individuals with type 1 and gestational diabetes may be at an increased risk, but more research needs to be done before reaching any definitive conclusions. 
  • Those with prediabetes should consult a healthcare professional for ways to reduce the risk of developing diabetes. Due to COVID-19 and quarantine restrictions, you may have also seen changes in your lifestyle related to your diet or physical activity. This is why it is a good idea to check in with your doctor to assess your diabetes risk. 

Does the risk of COVID-19 complications differ by those with controlled and uncontrolled diabetes?

  • Yes! The risk of severe COVID-19 is especially high for those with uncontrolled diabetes. Poorly managed diabetes can lead to further health complications such as lowered immune system function, which affects the body’s ability to then fight off infections like COVID-19. Now it is more important than ever to review your diabetes treatment plan with your healthcare provider.
  • Therefore, the important thing to note is that the risk of COVID-19 complications is lower for those with well-managed diabetes. Eating a well-balanced diet, incorporating exercise into your daily routine, maintaining blood sugar levels, and taking prescribed diabetes medication are all important aspects to managing diabetes. Consult with your healthcare provider to ensure that you are managing your own diabetes properly.

Information for this post was gathered from the American Diabetes Association. Visit this link for more information. 

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