Diabetes and COVID-19: Everything you should know

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Diabetes and COVID-19
As COVID-19 cases continue to spread throughout the world, diabetes management is more important than ever before. Experts determined that diabetes and COVID-19 may increase your risk of severe complications. This disease not only affects the lungs, but can impact other organs such as the heart, kidneys, and brain. So what does this mean for you when managing your diabetes in the pandemic? Here's what you should know about managing and preventing COVID-19 as a person living with diabetes.

Diabetes and COVID-19

In a world where COVID-19 seems to be our main health concern, people with underlying health conditions, like diabetes, deserve even more attention. 

We now know that people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are more likely to have severe complications if they contract COVID-19. Additionally, health concerns such as heart disease, hypertension, and kidney disease – which are often present among persons with diabetes – have also been found to increase the risk of severe COVID-19 disease.

Our team at AMCEC understands that these findings are causing you and your family significant anxiety and stress. For this reason, we are here to provide you with what you need to know about diabetes and COVID-19.

But first, here are some basic facts about COVID-19.


What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. Since the December 2019 outbreak in Wuhan, China, the World Health Organization reports that this virus caused over 2 million deaths worldwide.

The virus is mainly transmitted through the respiratory droplets of an infected person when coughing and sneezing. Less commonly, interactions with contaminated surfaces then touching the eyes, nose, or mouth can also lead to transmission.

Generally, symptoms of COVID-19 can be managed at home. These symptoms may arise within 3 to 7 days of exposure to the virus. However, some individuals may show no symptoms at all and still be infectious.

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are:

  • fever
  • dry cough
  • tiredness
  • loss of taste and/or smell

Other less common symptoms include: 

  • aches and pains
  • headache
  • sore throat 
  • diarrhoea 

More severe complications such as difficulty breathing and pneumonia may occur among people with diabetes. In such cases, hospitalization and ventilation could become necessary for these patients.


Diabetes and COVID-19: What are the risks?

Unlike diabetes, COVID-19 is a new disease and new information is being reported daily. However, the existing research on diabetes helps us understand the combined risk of these two diseases.

Elevated or uncontrolled glucose levels can impact your immune system’s ability to fight off the novel coronavirus. When the immune system is hindered, the risk of infection can lead you to become sick more quickly. 

A recent study confirmed that the impact of the COVID-19 virus is three times more severe in people with diabetes. When coupled with other underlying medical conditions like hypertension, heart disease, and obesity, the risk of severity becomes higher. 

When people with diabetes develop an infection, their diabetes becomes more difficult to manage. Blood sugar levels begin to fluctuate. This occurs because the immune system is working harder to fight the virus and calls for more glucose to help with this process. Unfortunately, the International Diabetes Federation reports that this high glucose environment is ideal for the COVID-19  virus to thrive and may cause more harm to the body.

As a respiratory virus, COVID-19 causes problems in the lungs of persons infected. One such problem already common amongst people with diabetes is pneumonia. Pneumonia is inflammation of the lung tissues that results in a build-up of fluid or mucus. Experts note that the risk of pneumonia increases in people with diabetes who develop COVID-19. 


What can you do to reduce the risks?

For persons living with diabetes, precautionary measures to avoid contracting COVID-19 must now become a part of the diabetes management plan. This plan should include:

1. Following public health recommendations for COVID-19

  • Wear a mask
  • Practice frequent hand washing for at least 20 seconds
  • Avoid crowded areas or indoor settings
  • Maintain a safe distance of about 1meter between yourself and others
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces that are frequently touched

2. Getting Vaccinated

The currently available vaccinations against the COVID-19 have proven to be more than 90% effective against the novel coronavirus. Any of these vaccines can prevent complications and slow the spread of the virus.

In areas where COVID-19 vaccines are not yet available, persons with diabetes should ensure that they have received the flu and pneumococcal vaccinations.

3. Tracking blood sugar levels daily

Using a blood glucose tracking application can help you monitor your blood sugars effectively. Accurate tracking can also help identify elevated glucose levels that may be a warning sign that an infection is present. 

4. Maintaining a healthy balanced diet and exercise

We know that national lockdowns and quarantines can make it challenging to eat healthily and exercise. But to manage your diabetes efficiently, these are very important. Planning meals ahead of time can help avoid multiple trips to the supermarket. We also recommend at-home workout videos which can be fun and engaging.

5. Continuing medications as prescribed

Your medication regimen is important for controlling your blood glucose. Continue taking your medication as directed by your doctor while monitoring your blood glucose levels. We suggest getting a 30 day supply filled at each visit to avoid running out of medications during shortages or limited access to local drugstores.


Wrapping up

Although diabetes can increase the risks of serious COVID-19 complications, the risks can be reduced if your diabetes is well managed.

AMCEC diabetes educators understand that this is a difficult time, and you may have many concerns for yourself and your family. We are here to answer your questions and work with you to create a management plan for your diabetes. To book your free consultation, click here

If you are a person with diabetes and are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible. 

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