Researchers are learning more and more about the different effects that COVID-19 has on people, especially those with pre-existing conditions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that people with Type 2 diabetes have an increased risk of severe illness, and those with Type 1 diabetes may have an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
“People who have Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes are not at a higher risk of contracting the virus. But the issue is that if the diabetes is not well managed or under good control or if they have other underlying diabetes complications, they are at a higher risk for complications or death from the virus,” said Tanya Munger, nurse practitioner, OSF Medical Group – Diabetes & Endocrinology.
Managing your diabetes
While researchers are still looking for the exact reason for serious outcomes in patients with diabetes and COVID-19, they are sure that people with unmanaged diabetes may have weakened immune systems, affecting their ability to recover quickly from a disease like COVID-19.
Another key point – viral infections affect people with diabetes differently. They can have increased inflammation or internal swelling, which is also caused by above-target blood sugars. Viral infections can increase the risk of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) in people with diabetes, especially Type 1 diabetes. DKA happens when your blood sugar is high, and acidic substances called ketones build up. The condition makes it difficult to manage fluid intake and electrolyte levels, which can lead to sepsis. Sepsis and septic shock are some of the more serious complications experienced by some people with COVID-19.
“If you already have underlying diabetes-related complications such as heart disease or chronic kidney disease, that does have an impact,” Munger said. “A good range is between 70 and 180 for your blood glucose readings.”
Need help managing your diabetes?
The additional health issues that accompany diabetes may also be to blame. Munger said it is essential for individuals to manage diabetes and give their bodies the best opportunity to fight the infection.
“If you’ve had a long history of uncontrolled diabetes, yes, it can lead to cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, peripheral vascular disease and things of that nature,” Munger said.
As with most acquired medical conditions, prevention is your best defense.
“One of the things we recommend is you continue to have regular office visits with your provider who’s managing your diabetes. Whether it’s endocrinology or primary care team, we want you to continue having those visits whether via telemedicine or face to face,” Munger said. “Keep up on your labs. Take your medications as directed, and continue to self-monitor at home.”
What you should do
If you have diabetes and become ill, you should take the following precautions:
- Call your health care provider
- Check your blood sugar every 2-3 hours
- Do not stop taking insulin
- Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated
OSF Medical Group offers a comprehensive team approach to diabetes care. For more information about how to manage your diabetes, visit osfhealthcare.org/endocrinology.