COVID-19 and Its Effects on Diabetic People

With the increasing spread of coronavirus around the world, it is very uncertain who among all are at the highest risk of health damage. However, the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 is unsettling for diabetic people.

Diabetic people are among the high-risk groups that are said to experience severe health complications if infected by the novel coronavirus. Therefore, it is essential for them to self-isolate and maintains social distance for as long as possible.

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Typically, diabetes leads to some level of immune compromise. Older adults significantly above 60 years of age with diabetes are especially at a higher risk of contracting infectious diseases. Unbalanced sugar levels in the body not only causes damage to the health but also reduces the immunity to fight infections.

Today’s article will highlight the complications of COVID-19 with diabetes. Furthermore, we will discuss the precautions necessary for diabetic people.

Why are diabetic patients more prone to get COVID-19?

The novel coronavirus is like an opportunistic agent who can risk the life of an immunocompromised person when exposed to someone with the virus. Research experts state that the risk of respiratory illness increases with increase the HbAC1 in the blood. (1)

Diabetic people come under a high-risk group of experiencing severe health complications because of the following reasons –

  • Uncontrolled diabetes makes it more challenging to manage a pre-existing condition. Usually, such situations lead to hospitalization and critical observation.
  • High blood sugar levels in the body can suppress the immune system function and makes it harder for the body to fight infections. This may also lead to the worsening of the symptoms.
  • coronavirus has the potential to increase the morbidity and mortality rate among diabetic people. (2)
  • In a diabetic person, the inflammatory response of the body to any infection drastically slows down, making the body more vulnerable. Moreover, it leads to delayed healing.

Some of the factors that play a crucial role in causing more damage from COVID-19 include –

  • Age of the patient
  • Health complications associated with diabetes
  • Management of systemic diabetes

Does COVID-19 affect Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes differently?

Generally, there has been no clinical evidence that states any difference in the risk of COVID-19 on both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. However, people with Type 1 diabetes are more prone to experience diabetic ketoacidosis, which can cause health complications when infected by the novel coronavirus. (3)

Usually, diabetic ketoacidosis makes it challenging to manage fluid intake and electrolyte levels. Moreover, it increases the risk of sepsis. Recent studies have revealed that sepsis and septic shock are the two main complications encountered by diabetic people with COVID-19.

One way to know if you have diabetic ketoacidosis is to check your blood sugar levels periodically. If the level is greater than 240mg/dl – two times in a row, consult your doctor to check for diabetic ketoacidosis.

What are the warning signs and symptoms of COVID-19, especially in diabetic people?

People with controlled diabetes may usually experience mild symptoms of COVID-19 which includes –

  • Fever
  • Sore throat and stuffy nose
  • Muscle pain and headache
  • Diarrhea

However, people who fail to maintain their sugar levels or those with a risk of diabetic ketoacidosis may experience some severe symptoms of COVID-19 –

  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Pneumonia
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Fatigue
  • Respiratory failure and even death

In a survey study in China, 22% of the patients who were hospitalized with severe symptoms of the novel coronavirus had diabetes. Therefore, it is essential to take every precaution to stay protected at home. (4)

What precautions should one take to stay protected from COVID-19?

Typically, there are four main precautionary measures that people with diabetes must follow in their daily life –

Health management

Health authorities recommend the following guidelines to manage diabetes and maintain good health during the pandemic.

  • Monitor normal blood glucose levels at home. Reasonable glycemic control can help to reduce the risk of infection. Moreover, it will help to avoid complications and severe symptoms.
  • Maintain a nutritious diet that includes an adequate amount of proteins, minerals, and vitamins.
  • Regular exercise is necessary to improve immunity. Home workouts are best this time to stay fit.
  • Flu and pneumonia vaccinations may not protect from coronavirus. However, they will reduce the risk of getting secondary infections that may cause health damage.

Prepare supply

Luckily, there has been no issue with the supply of diabetic medications such as insulin shots for type 1 diabetic patients and oral medications for Type 2 diabetic patients.

However, it is best to keep an ample amount of medical supply at home to avoid unnecessary trips to the pharmacy. Moreover, have glucose testing kits and urine ketone test strips at home to regularly monitor your blood sugar levels. (5) Stay in contact with your doctor to manage change in current therapies or medications that may improve your health.

Home isolation

Self-isolation at your home is the best way to stay protected from contracting infectious diseases. Maintain social distance when going out for grocery supply. Avoid close contact with anyone. Additionally, avoid sharing personal items, especially when you or someone in your home is sick.

Personal hygiene

  • Clean your hands frequently with soap water for at least 20 seconds. Use a hand sanitizer that has 60% alcohol.
  • If you suffer from flu-like symptoms, use a disposable tissue, and discard it after use in a closed dustbin. Wash your hands immediately after that.
  • Cover your mouth and nose while coughing or sneezing
  • Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, nose, and face if your hands are not washed.
  • Wear a face mask if you are sick and around family members.

Take away message

It is a known fact that diabetic people are among the high-risk groups that can experience severe symptoms of coronavirus. Typically, it happens because of uncontrolled blood sugar levels that can reduce the immunity to fight infections.

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Moreover, fluctuating blood glucose levels, together with coronavirus, can delay healing, lead to the weakening of the body, and in severe cases, cause respiratory failure. Therefore, it is essential to take the utmost precaution in maintaining your blood sugar levels under control.

Additionally, health maintenance and fitness are necessary to build immunity. Practice home isolation and social distancing to avoid the disease spread. Stay in contact with your doctor to check your health condition periodically.

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