People with diabetes are at higher risk of COVID 19 OR COVID 19 and Diabetes: Risks and Preventions
Dr Mahesh Chavan, Consultant, Endocrinology, Apollo Hospitals, Navi Mumbai
As India gears up for returning to normalcy in phases, we remain at high risk considering that the spike in numbers has made India the fourth worst COVID hit country today. It is extremely crucial that now more than ever we take stringent precautions to stay safe, especially taking care of those at high risk. COVID-19, caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, presents with symptoms like coughing, fever, myalgia and respiratory complications such as viral pneumonia, and respiratory failure. Even though it can infect people from any age group, older people and those with pre-existing medical conditions like diabetes are at a higher risk.
According to reports, there is a bi-directional relationship between COVID-19 and diabetes and is associated with increased risk and mortality. The study observed that about 20-30% of the COVID-19 fatalities were reported to be patients with diabetes. The scientists further stated that there is a possibility that the novel coronavirus can even alter glucose metabolism which could complicate the condition of preexisting diabetes or lead to new mechanisms of disease. So, given the nature of both these diseases, there is a need for India to increase awareness about the conditions. As the second most affected country in terms of diabetes, we need to understand the risk factors involved to better combat the diseases. The risk factors can be generally divided into two factors – immunity and glucose levels, and physical restrictions.
A study of the symptoms of the virus shows the impact it has on a patient’s immune system. It is contagious in nature and spreads similar to bacterial infections and other respiratory diseases. Diabetic patients are known to be more susceptible to infections and other comorbidities due to a dysfunction of the immune system caused by hyperglycemia. This makes it harder for patients to combat the virus and entails longer recovery periods. Poor glycaemic control impairs the immune response to viral infection as well as creates conditions for secondary bacterial infection in the lungs. Many diabetic patients are also obese and obesity does add to the risk factor of contracting diseases. Those with severe obesity may suffer from underlying respiratory problems, which in many cases leads to feeling fatigued and general weakness.
The characteristics of these two diseases make it crucial for those with diabetes to monitor themselves on a regular basis and take safeguards against the virus. While the risk factors are high, the good news is that patients can control the risk factors by managing their health and taking proper advice and guidance from their doctors. Maintain healthy lifestyle habits, have a proper diet, follow social distancing, take medications on time and monitor your health regularly by undergoing check-ups and necessary procedures to effectively combat the virus. Following general safety and prevention procedures as directed by relevant healthcare authorities will help to avoid getting infected and maintain continued good health.