People with certain underlying health conditions, such as diabetes, are at greater risk of severe illness from COVID-19. It now appears that there may also be a relationship between severe COVID-19 infections and developing diabetes after recovering from COVID-19.
The American Diabetes Association presented the latest COVID-19 and diabetes research in June 2021. Studies showed that individuals with diabetes and other related underlying health conditions are hospitalized six times more often and are 12 times more likely to die of COVID-19 than those without diabetes. Furthermore, diabetes is the second most reported underlying health condition among COVID-19 patients across the United States. Forty percent of Americans who died of COVID-19 had diabetes, and 1 in 10 people with diabetes hospitalized for COVID-19 die within one week—making diabetes a high-risk comorbidity.
Now, new research is finding that the virus may infect and destroy certain cells that are crucial for keeping diabetes at bay. New research from Stanford University School of Medicine, Weill Cornell Medicine confirmed the association between COVID-19 and diabetes. The research studies illustrated the virus’s ability to infect pancreatic beta cells, decrease insulin secretion and effectively cause type 1 diabetes.
The virus destroys the cells in the pancreas that make insulin. This decreases insulin levels and leads directly to high blood sugar and type 1 diabetes. Experts say these cells may be especially vulnerable to being attacked by the virus as they contain certain receptors known to bind to COVID-19. Due to the destruction of pancreatic cells, patients could potentially become dependent on diabetes medications, such as insulin, long after they finish their battle with COVID-19.
Both studies highlight the possibility of COVID-19-induced diabetes and stress the need for awareness in those infected with the virus. Anyone who has recovered from COVID-19 should be on the lookout for symptoms of diabetes. Common symptoms are extreme thirst and increase in urination, unintentional, significant weight loss, or fatigue.
These studies provide yet another reminder of the importance of protecting yourself, your family members, and your community from COVID-19 by getting vaccinated if you haven’t already — and encouraging your loved ones to do the same.