Stable blood sugar levels can mitigate your risk level.
It’s natural to be nervous about the COVID-19 pandemic—especially if you have diabetes. People with diabetes are an “at-risk” group because they are more likely to have serious complications of COVID-19.
However, you can reduce your risk. Early statistics show that people with stable blood sugar levels likely have a lower risk of serious complications, compared to those with high or unstable levels.
“The most important thing someone with diabetes can do to lower their risk of COVID-19 complications is to control their blood glucose, control their blood pressure, control their body weight, and to practice social distancing, hand hygiene, and mask wearing,” says Minisha Sood, MD, endocrinologist.
The Role of Blood Sugar Levels
High blood sugar levels can have many effects on the body. For example, it can damage the blood vessels (increasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases) and the nerves (leading to neuropathy). Learn more here about complications of diabetes.
Additionally, “high blood sugars compromise the immune system’s ability to fight off infections, including COVID-19,” says Dr. Sood.
The high blood sugar both causes chronic inflammation in the body and triggers something called a cytokine storm. This is “an overreaction of the immune system which could lead to severe complications of COVID-19,” says Dr. Sood. “It could increase the risk of hospitalization or more severe pneumonia or respiratory failure.”
Managing Your Risk
There are actions you can take to reduce your risk of serious complications. For starters, it’s important to stick to your treatment plan during the pandemic. You should continue:
- Taking your medications and insulin as prescribed
- Eating a diabetes-friendly diet
- Staying physically active (like taking a walk)
- Checking your blood sugar regularly
You might also want to take additional precautions during the pandemic. For example, you can make an action plan with your doctor so you know what to do if you get sick. You should also make sure you always have at least a 30-day supply of your medications.
“If someone is having trouble managing their diabetes during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to get in touch with your healthcare provider,” says Dr. Sood. “Make sure that you not only have enough medications and testing materials, but also to discuss any symptoms that are arising because early treatment could be life-saving.”
Dr. Sood is a board-certified endocrinologist in private practice in New York City and an assistant professor at Hofstra School of Medicine.
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The most important thing someone with diabetes can do
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to lower their risk of COVID-19 complications
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is to control their blood glucose,
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control their blood pressure,
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control their body weight,
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and to practice social distancing,
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hand hygiene, and mask-wearing.
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High blood sugars compromise
the immune system's ability
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to fight off infections, including COVID-19.
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The high blood sugar environment in the body
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does a few things.
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First of all, it leads to chronic inflammation.
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Second of all, this may trigger a cytokine storm,
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or an overreaction of the immune system,
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which could lead to severe complications of COVID-19.
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It could increase the risk of hospitalization,
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or more severe pneumonia or respiratory failure,
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and also, it can lead to potential diabetic ketoacidosis.
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Diabetic ketoacidosis is a condition in the body
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where the body's ability to make enough insulin
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to deal with the stress of the infection is impaired,
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and without enough insulin around,
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and higher blood sugars because of the stress
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that the body is experiencing,
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the body makes acids called ketones,
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and ketones change the biochemistry of the blood,
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and that can lead to dehydration, nausea,
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vomiting, and electrolyte problems,
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and immediate medical attention is needed
for life-saving measures.
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Someone with diabetes can minimize their risk
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of severe complications by controlling blood glucose levels,
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controlling body weight,
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controlling blood pressure,
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and making sure that they have an ample supply
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of medication and testing materials on hand,
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and also an open line of communication
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with their healthcare provider should issues arise.
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If someone is having trouble managing their diabetes
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during the COVID-19 pandemic,
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it's important to get in touch with your healthcare provider
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to make sure that you not only have enough medications
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and testing materials,
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but also to discuss any symptoms that are arising
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because early treatment could be life-saving.
- Complications. Arlington, VA: American Diabetes Association, 2020. (Accessed on July 24, 2020)
- How COVID-19 impacts people with diabetes. Arlington, VA: American Diabetes Association, 2020. (Accessed on July 24, 2020)
- People with certain medical conditions. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020. (Accessed on July 24, 2020)