With so many resources going into understanding COVID-19, it seems like every day we get new surprising information about its effects on us. Diabetes after COVID-19 is the latest complication that may soon be getting a lot of scrutiny by the medical community. The two conditions are not directly related: one is a disease caused by a virus and the other is a metabolic disease.
There isn’t a clear answer yet but hospitals and doctors are doing their best to check if there is indeed a link between COVID-19 and increased diabetes cases. A few studies suggest that between 5% to 14.4% of COVID-19 patients went on to also develop diabetes later on. Is it possible that you have a higher risk of diabetes after COVID-19 recovery? The answer is a bit complicated so let’s dive right in:
Diabetes vs COVID-19
Type I diabetes is when the pancreas produces very little or no insulin for the body to use. Type II is when insulin is being produced but is not being used by the body (also called insulin resistance). Insulin is required by the body to metabolise glucose (sugar) in the bloodstream. When insulin is absent or unused then the levels of sugar in the blood keeps rising since it has nowhere to go.
Caused by the Coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19 is a respiratory disease. The infection can present as mild with minor flu or cold-like symptoms (or no symptoms). It is easily spread through contact with an infected person or through air droplets in the environment. In some people (especially elders and those with poor immunity) it can lead to severe illness (including high fever, respiratory distress and even death ).
These two things do not seem similar in any way, so why are some people developing diabetes after COVID-19?
What Could Be Causing Diabetes After COVID-19 Recovery?
- Diagnosis of the undiagnosed Pre-existing Diabetes- Type II diabetes is attributed to genetic factors, obesity, lack of physical activity, lack of balanced nutrition and lifestyle habits like smoking. Some earlier statistics indicate that most people who are prediabetic and a lot of those who are diabetic do not know they have the condition yet.
So it is possible that many of the people who are getting diagnosed with diabetes after COVID-19 are simply discovering preexisting conditions. This may be due to better/more frequent testing during the COVID-19 infection or treatment leading to the diagnosis of diabetic conditions that would have otherwise remained hidden.
- Stress- Stress (psychological and physiological) plays a role in Type II diabetes. The mental and physical stress of undergoing COVID-19 infection, fear of losing loved ones, financial loss, depression, anxiety and a lot more that has happened due to pandemics may lead to a higher risk of developing diabetes after COVID-19 recovery. This may be limited to people who are genetically at risk for Type II diabetes and those who are already prediabetic.
- Drug-Induced Diabetes- Life-saving medicines like steroids given during the treatment of COVID-19 can also lead to a spike in blood sugars. This is usually a temporary rise in blood sugars which needs to be managed by oral medicines or insulin injections or can lead to long term diabetes for some patients.
What You Need To Know Now
- It is not understood whether this is a temporary form of diabetes or not. For example, it could be similar to gestational diabetes that disappears after a pregnant woman gives birth.
- It is possible that a lot of these newly discovered diabetes cases were already there and getting hospitalised for COVID-19 simply improved the rate of a diabetes diagnosis.
- Hospitals around the world are working together to build a database and collaborate on this very issue right now. The more information they can gather, the better we can understand whether diabetes after COVID-19 is truly being caused by the infection.
- As of now, there isn’t any conclusion whether COVID-19 or its treatment causes a higher risk of diabetes, the medical community is still trying to figure it out.
What Are The Warning Signs Of Diabetes After COVID-19
Some of these may also be associated with normal recovery, so do not panic if you notice them. But consider running these by your doctor just to be safe.
Here are a few symptoms to keep an eye out for that may indicate diabetes:
- If you find yourself going to urinate during the night or urinating more often during the day.
- Feeling more hungry and thirsty.
- May be accompanied by blurry vision.
- Difficulty getting back to your original weight after losing it during your COVID-19 recovery.
- Cuts and wounds take longer to heal.
- Feeling tired despite getting rest
- Frequent infections
While we still do not know if there is indeed a relation between these two conditions, there are still a few things to keep in mind. First, if you are overweight or obese try to healthily lose a few kilos. If you have already lost weight due to COVID-19 do not try to lose more weight, instead, work with your doctor to get back to a healthy weight, make changes to your diet and cut out unhealthy, processed foods. Lastly, get yourself tested for diabetes at the earliest especially if you have just recovered from COVID-19. In any case, do not panic, consult your doctors and understand the best possible way to manage the condition for yourself as the modality of treatment varies from person to person.
Disclaimer: The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.