The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the COVID-19 spread to be a global health emergency of international concern. COVID-19 is a new deadly and infectious disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The virus spreads when there is close contact with the infected person. In most cases, the symptoms are mild like fever, cough, sore throat, tiredness and shortness of breath.
People with diabetes are at a higher risk of diagnosing serious complications such as severe breathing problems.
COVID-19 and Diabetes:
People affected by certain medical conditions such as diabetes, obesity, heart and kidney disease are at a higher risk of being affected by serious illness from COVID-19.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), type 2 diabetes patients have a higher risk of severe complications from COVID-19.
Type 1 and gestational diabetes patients may be at a higher risk too but there isn’t enough evidence to conclude.
COVID-19 symptoms are more serious in diabetes patients because of the way their immune system works. It makes it hard for the body to fight the virus.
Some common COVID-19 symptoms are:
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of smell
- Loss of taste
The symptoms are usually visible 2 to 14 days after exposure to the virus.
The International Diabetes Federation has observed that the COVID-19 virus thrives in an environment of elevated blood sugar levels. This is one of the reasons why diabetes increases the severity of illnesses from COVID-19. Diabetes is also linked with a low-level state of inflammation, this slows down the body in healing any infection.
Not only are diabetics at a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 but it’s also hard for them to recover from them. This is a result of high blood sugar combined with a persistent state of inflammation.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s research states that diabetes patients affected with coronavirus have a 7.3% risk of death from COVID-19 related illness and in the case of cancer patients, they are at a risk of 5.6%. This shows the effect COVID-19 has on diabetes patients.
Risks and Complications:
The novel coronavirus can lead to serious complications in diabetes patients. Some of these complications are:
Pneumonia is caused by an infection in the lungs. This infection causes inflammation in the air sacs of the lungs. People with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing severe forms of COVID-19 like pneumonia. Hence, it is important for diabetes patients to get
pneumococcal and annual influenza vaccinations.
When diabetes patients suffer from fever due to COVID-19, they lose fluids from their body. This leads to dehydration which in turn leads to many symptoms.
Very high blood sugar levels:
When a diabetic is affected by a viral infection, it causes a stress response in the body. This causes an increased production of glucose in the body. It is necessary to use extra insulin as a result of this. It is also vital to do frequent blood sugar level monitoring as there are chances it may spike all of a sudden.
It is another complication of COVID-19 in the case of diabetes patients. As discussed earlier, it is known that COVID-19 in diabetes patients elevates the blood sugar to very high levels. But when a person doesn’t have enough insulin to make up for this elevation it leads to a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis. Diabetic ketoacidosis occurs when the body begins to break fat for energy leading to a buildup of ketones in the blood. These built-up ketones make the blood more acidic causing various health problems.
Some symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis:
- Extreme thirst
- Fruity smelling breath
- Rapid breathing
The COVID-19 virus is known to spread through close contact. When in a close range with an infected person, the virus may transmit through the air and when the other person inhales, they get infected with the virus. This is one way of how the virus spreads.
It can also spread by touch, either through direct physical contact or by touching the same surface.
People with diabetes can prevent themselves from getting affected by COVID-19 by following some precautionary measures. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations are:
- Avoid large gatherings.
- Cleanliness and hygiene :
- Wash hands using soap
- Use sanitisers when water is unavailable
- Frequently disinfecting surfaces and objects.
- Use a tissue to cover sneezes and coughs
- Prevent touching the face without washing or sanitizing the hands.
- Don’t share food, personal items etc.
- Maintain a specific distance from people and wear a mask when physical distancing is not possible.
Patients should also try to manage their diabetes. Some ways to manage are:
- Try to prevent fluctuations in blood sugar. Also, try to maintain blood sugar at the optimum level.
- Improve the diet
- Perform physical activities like exercising at home
- Keep other diabetes complications in check