Diabetes and COVID-19
The United States – and the world – is currently battling a pandemic. The coronavirus has taken over virtually every aspect of life for just about everyone, but there are some people who may be more vulnerable than others to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), among other institutions, reports that those already living with other medical conditions are at a higher risk of severe illness if they contract the coronavirus. One of the conditions on this list of medical conditions is diabetes, and many people with diabetes may be wondering how they should respond.
The novel coronavirus has been in the news since the beginning of the year. It is a respiratory illness that first began in the Wuhan province in China, and has since become a pandemic. The first reported case in the United States of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, was in late January in Washington. Since then, there have been almost a half-million cases reported in the United States, with over 18,000 deaths.
Diabetes and the Immune System
Since diabetes is a disease related to insulin production, it may seem as though having it shouldn’t make people with diabetes type 1 or 2 more susceptible to developing severe symptoms with COVID-19. However, patients with either type of diabetes are generally more vulnerable to most viral infections. Blood sugar levels play a role in how the immune system responds to foreign bodies, including viruses. The risk of getting sicker is higher since the immune system offers less protection from a viral threat.
Currently, there is no empirical evidence that suggests people with diabetes are more likely to become infected with the coronavirus. Neither will they necessarily have stronger symptoms. Evidence does suggest, however, that people with preexisting conditions, in general, are more vulnerable to most diseases, including respiratory illnesses.
According to the Center for Disease Control, “COVID-19 is a new disease and there is limited information regarding risk factors for severe disease. Based on currently available information and clinical expertise, older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions might be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.”
Diabetics With Covid-19
Although there is no current evidence suggesting that a person with diabetes who also gets COVID-19 will suffer any differently than someone without a preexisting condition, if people with diabetes happen to contract the virus, they will need to take additional cautionary measures as their bodies will respond to the virus differently.
- Hydration. People with diabetes are prone to becoming dehydrated more often and more quickly. High blood sugar levels lead to decreased hydration, so be sure to stock up on water, juice with no additives, and sports drinks, especially when in self-isolation.
- Flu shot. A flu shot will not protect anyone from the coronavirus. But those with preexisting conditions will particularly benefit from them because they may have one less respiratory illness to endure. People with preexisting conditions and the flu may find themselves struggling even more if they also contract COVID-19.
- Blood sugar. People with diabetes who are sick from COVID-19 need to use extra caution in maintaining blood sugar levels. For example, high blood sugar levels provide the virus more fuel to invade the body. The result is a longer, and perhaps even a more difficult recovery time.
How to Prevent Contracting Coronavirus
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended ways to not only prevent people from contracting coronavirus but also keeping them from passing the virus on to others. The advice given by the CDC intends to inform not just those with preexisting conditions, but for everyone.
- Personal protective equipment. The first recommendation from the CDC for those who choose to go out in public do so while wearing personal protective equipment (PPE). These are items designed to protect an individual from infection, either airborne or otherwise. Face masks, for example, are an excellent way to cover up the nose and mouth to keep a person from inhaling the virus. Gloves and increased hand washing help remove the possibility of contracting the virus through direct skin contact. Gloves and face masks can also discourage touching the face.
- Social distancing. Many Americans have adopted the practice known as social distancing. The CDC urges Americans that are going out in public to do so while remaining at least six feet away from each other.
- Self-quarantine. It may be harder for some more than others, but remaining isolated from the public helps keep the virus from spreading. This may be the most effective way to prevent one’s self from becoming infected, and from infecting others. The virus generally remains with its host for up to two weeks after two days of the initial infection.These are tough times for everyone, but especially for those with preexisting conditions like diabetes. If everyone takes a little more effort to keep everyone safe, this pandemic can go away much faster.
Obesity Goes Hand in Hand with Diabetes
Nearly 90 percent of people newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese. Those who have blood glucose levels above normal but don’t yet have type 2 diabetes are considered pre-diabetic and at great risk for developing the disease. In a recently published study, weight loss surgery has been proven to reduce type 2 diabetes in three out of four patients. It works because excess weight makes it hard for your body to regulate blood sugar levels. So when you lose weight, your body is able to regain control of blood sugar levels. But weight loss surgery isn’t the end of the journey. If you regain the weight, the risk for type 2 diabetes will return.
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