COVID-19 and Diabetes: What We Know 5 Months Later


When we wrote our previous article on a precautionary checklist for diabetes patients, the threat of the pandemic was much farther away. With the number of cases nearing 80,000 in a single day, COVID-19 is currently ravaging India, making it absolutely essential for anyone with comorbidities to equip themselves with enough information.

While diabetes won’t make a patient more prone to contracting COVID-19, once infected, diabetics have a higher chance of experiencing more severe symptoms. According to a correspondence published in the New England Journal of Medicine, there is a bidirectional relationship between COVID-19 and Diabetes. This relationship is the reason why there is a higher chance for fatalities seen among diabetics who contact COVID-19.

The diabetic experience with COVID-19 

Most chronic ailments compromise a patient’s immune system, and this can worsen the COVID-19 symptoms that they experience. This is especially true in the case of those who have uncontrolled diabetes. Those who have any type of diabetes – type 1, type 2 or gestational diabetes have to take care to prevent severe inflammation that may occur due to COVID-19. The patient’s age and ethnicity are also said to be factors that can worsen their complications. 

No matter what the risk is, social distancing, self-isolation, self-monitoring, and good hygiene are all factors that can keep a diabetic patient safe. Staying physically active and maintaining a good diet can also have a significant impact on managing diabetes and preventing unnecessary hospital visits. In case they face any symptoms of hypoglycemia, hyperglycemia or COVID-19, they should be prepared with emergency numbers to get immediate help. 

How does COVID-19 affect your blood sugar? 

For those who do become infected with COVID-19 despite taking all the necessary precautions, the infection can affect their diabetes and overall health in unique ways. 

When the body is trying to fight off an illness, the stored glucose in the body is released into the bloodstream to give energy. But in individuals with diabetes, this can be problematic as their body can’t produce enough insulin to deal with the release of glucose and their blood sugar levels might spike. These severe highs and lows in their blood sugar can lead to complications like diabetic ketoacidosis or hyperosmolar hyperglycaemic state. 

According to an article published by Massachusetts General Hospital, diabetic ketoacidosis occurs when the blood becomes acidic due to the rapid breakdown of fat that creates ketones, which enter the blood. In order to control this, they recommended insulin-dependent patients to have ketone testing kits at home and consistently monitor their blood sugar levels. 

In the case of the hyperosmolar hyperglycaemic state, the body attempts to rid itself of excessive blood sugar by passing it into the urine. This can cause symptoms such as dehydration, weakness, leg cramps, vision problems, and can even alter the level of consciousness.

Rather than the diabetes type that a patient is suffering from, what matters is how well their blood sugar is managed. If a patient’s diabetes is well managed and they are consistently monitoring their vitals, it will be easier to catch any complications and address it quickly. 

Doctors may also alter a diabetic patient’s medication during the period of their infection to better handle these complications.

Following the basic preventive measures can go a long way in ensuring safety from COVID-19 – especially self-isolation and good hygiene. But spending time at home shouldn’t be a reason to poorly handle your health.

Taking this time to manage the condition can help you in the long term. And in case COVID-19 does affect you, a well managed diabetic patient faces much fewer complications than one whose blood sugars are poorly controlled.

To know more about exactly what you should be doing as a diabetes patient, do read the precautionary checklist that we have put together. 

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