Why is Coronavirus a Greater Concern for People with Diabetes?
It is said that people with diabetes may experience a more severe progression of the disease if they contract the novel coronavirus.
If you or someone you love has diabetes, you have probably noticed that diabetes consistently appears on lists of people at higher risk for new coronavirus infections. And you may have wondered why.
The good news is that people with diabetes – of any type – do not appear to be at a higher risk of contracting the virus. The bad news is that if you have diabetes, you are more likely to have a more serious illness.
“Recent data from the CDC [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] indicate that of those diagnosed with Covid-19, only 10% have diabetes, and that’s about the prevalence of diabetes in the general U.S. population. But if you are hospitalized, you may have a more severe course of illness,” explained Dr. Robert Eckel, President of Medicine and Science at the American Diabetes Association.
And what holds true in the U.S. may also hold true in other parts of the world.
A Factor of Age
Dr. Paul Stewart, Professor of Medicine at the University of Leeds in the UK, stated that “there is no reason why diabetic patients should be at greater risk [of contracting a Covid-19 infection].” He is the senior author of an editorial in the May issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism that highlights how people with certain endocrine diseases, such as diabetes, may face additional risks from Covid-19.
Stewart noted that people with diabetes who have been hospitalized seem to have a higher likelihood of dying from the infection. However, it is still not clear whether this directly stems from having diabetes or another factor.
“This may be just a function of age rather than diabetes itself,” he said.
Eckel pointed out that some Chinese data suggests that the higher mortality rate in people with diabetes may actually be due to underlying heart disease. But until researchers have more data and time to interpret the information, it will not be clear whether diabetes alone plays a role in more serious outcomes.
What Does This Mean for People with Diabetes Now?
Both experts assert that people with diabetes need to follow the same recommended rules as everyone else. The key is to avoid infection in the first place.
Be smart, take precautions, and stay safe. This means washing hands frequently and avoiding touching the face. Stay home as much as possible, and keep a distance from people who do not live with you. The CDC recommends a distance of at least 6 feet. Additionally, the latest CDC guidance also advises the use of cloth masks when in public areas where it’s challenging to maintain a safe distance from others.
“The same precautions to avoid infections that apply to everyone also apply to people with diabetes,” said Eckel.
Stewart agreed and said, “The scientific picture indicates that these people need to self-isolate, to try and reduce the chance of infection in the same way as the background population.”
If you have diabetes and end up with a severe Covid-19 infection, Eckel said it’s a good idea to bring your supplies to the hospital, especially if you are insulin-dependent. He said hospitals may not have all types of insulin readily available. The same holds true for continuous glucose monitor supplies and insulin pump supplies.
He added that some hospitals may not allow you to bring supplies, and if that’s the case, you will need to follow the hospital’s rules. If you are well enough to do so, some hospitals may allow you to continue managing your diabetes on your own.
Eckel’s final advice for people with diabetes? “Be smart. Take precautions. Stay safe.”