A handful of high-risk groups, including those with diabetes, need to be especially cautious about avoiding this pandemic. Doctors have been aware of the connection, but it’s taken them some time to figure out exactly why diabetes is such a risk factor for severe COVID-19 complications. But researchers believe the biggest reasons may include higher risks of cytokine storms, blood clotting and a few other issues. Let's take a look at what's going on that makes this risk factor so life-threatening.
Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, especially when uncontrolled, causes an increases in blood sugar. Over time, the high sugar load can damage blood vessels, which can in turn increase cardiovascular risks. Over one-fifth of diabetics have cardiovascular disease. High blood sugar can also cause systemic inflammation, which can open sufferers to a host of other health problems, including lung damage and clotting issues. And keep in mind that all of this is without the added factor of COVID-19 being in play.
In addition, over four-fifths of diabetics have high blood pressure, and nearly one-quarter suffer from chronic kidney disease. These and other issues associated with diabetes could leave sufferers more susceptible to the effects of infection in any case. And, of course, the worse a person’s blood sugar control is, the higher the likelihood of their needing to be hospitalized for any infection that does occur. And then along comes COVID-19.
Previous studies found diabetes patients made up about 15% of severe H1N1 infections back in 2009, so researchers set out to see if similar phenomena were occurring with COVID-19. They found diabetes-related changes to the immune system can cause reduced protection against numerous different pathogens, including some that only attack opportunistically in healthy people.
A look at statistics in China shows people with diabetes are twice as likely to be hospitalized in intensive care with COVID-19 and three times more likely to die of disease complications. Reports from New York and other hard-hit areas have shared similar findings. Not surprisingly, diabetic retinopathy, a condition that is most common in uncontrolled diabetes, appears to be among the highest risk groups.
Even healthy people might find themselves suddenly thrust into a high-risk group once they’ve caught COVID-19. Some research suggests increased chances of developing diabetes as an effect of COVID infection, so no one is really safe, no matter what condition they are in currently but diabetics should be taking particular care to keep themselves safe from COVID-19.
COVID-19 has proven how dangerous it can be in all age and health groups, but many are still unaware of their complication risks until they catch the virus. Disease prevention is the best way to keep from becoming a severe case, but those with diabetes need to be particularly careful. Reduce the possibility of transmission by practicing strict social distancing, washing hands regularly and wearing a mask whenever out in public.
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