COVID-19 and Diabetes

COVID-19 is a highly infectious illness that spreads by coming in close contact with someone who has the virus.

Most of the people with COVID-19 infection get mild symptoms and do not require treatment in the hospital. The symptoms would include fever, cough, tiredness, and shortness of breath.

People suffering from diabetes have a higher risk of developing complications such as shortness of breath and pneumonia.

A study conducted in London evaluated people with diabetes who were admitted for COVID-19 infection. It was found that among the people with diabetic retinopathy (a complication of diabetes) developed severe breathing symptoms from COVID-19.(1)

It was seen that patients with diabetic retinopathy were more likely to be intubated or put on a ventilator to help them breathe.

Retinopathy marks the damage to the blood vessels, which may lead to a severe COVID-19 infection requiring intensive care treatment.

How Can Retinopathy Lead To Severe COVID-19 Infection?

Diabetic retinopathy is an eye disease that occurs due to damage to the small blood vessels of the eyes. It is one of the potential complications of type1 and type2 diabetes.

Diabetic retinopathy does not cause severe COVID-19 infection but may cause damage to the blood vessels that may contribute to increasing the risk of complications from COVID-19.

Over a period of time, diabetes may cause damage to the blood vessels of the eye and other parts of the body. This blood vessel damage may put people with COVID-19 infection at an increased risk of suffering from complications of the infection.

Keep Diabetes Under Control

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) people with type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and gestational diabetes are at an increased risk of COVID-19 complications.(2)

To protect themselves it is important to keep their blood sugar levels and other risk factors (blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and weight) under control.

Controlled blood sugar decreases the chances of blood vessel damage as well as other complications. It also reduces the chances of getting severe COVID-19.

Along with maintaining the levels, there are a few common precautions followed by everyone else that can prevent them from contracting the virus.

Wash Your Hands Frequently

  • Use an alcohol-based sanitizer if at any place soap and water is not available
  • Avoid touching surfaces if possible
  • Disinfect a potentially contaminated surface such as countertops, tabletops, and door handle frequently
  • Do not touch the nose, mouth, or eyes with unwashed hands

Practice Social Distancing

  • Cover the nose with a tissue or elbow when sneezing
  • Avoid coming in contact with sick people, especially those with fever, cough or both
  • Keep up the immune system by reducing stress and sleeping for at least 7 hours
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids (sugarfree) and eat healthy food
  • Wear a face mask in places where social distancing is not possible
  • If suffering from diabetes and you get a COVID-19 infection, contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible.

As people with diabetes are at a higher risk of suffering from complications of this infection, maintaining healthy blood sugar levels and proper treatment might reduce the chances of complicating the illness.

CDC recommended during this pandemic, people with diabetes should:(2)

  • Continue taking insulin as usual
  • Keep track of their blood sugar levels
  • Make sure to have a 30 days, supply of diabetes medication

Speak with a healthcare provider to discuss any concerns about diabetes and COVID-19 infection.

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