Can COVID-19 trigger diabetes? Your questions answered right here


Diabetes and COVID-19 | Photo credit: iStock Images

Key highlights

  • Studies of thousands of cases in the US, UK and China have shown that some people developed diabetes either during COVID-19 infection or after recovery.
  • Incidentally, none of these people who developed diabetes after (or during) recovery from COVID-19 infection had a history of diabetes.
  • Scientists are studying how the virus can potentially lead to malfunctioning insulin and glucose metabolism that can cause diabetes.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, there have been a number of comorbidities that could threaten an infected person’s chances of recovery. Apart from kidney, heart and liver diseases, cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure were listed as comorbidities.

The progression of COVID-19 has baffled most medical professionals as it appears to adopt different patterns in different people. While some people show no symptoms, others go through the infection period with negligible flu-like symptoms, there have been cases where many people have suffered from shortness of breath, damage to vital organs, and in some cases even death.

Diabetes due to COVID-19 infection? According to a report in The Times of India, there is scattered evidence that some people have reportedly developed diabetes either while infected or after recovery. Over 2,700 COVID-recovered patients in the US were also surveyed, and researchers found that 14% of them later developed diabetes after contracting COVID-19. A similar study of around 40,000 COVID survivors in the UK and China has shown a similar trend.

Incidentally, none of these people who developed diabetes after (or during) recovery from COVID-19 infection had a history of diabetes.

Scientists have yet to figure out how or why COVID-19 can cause diabetes. However, there are some theories about how the virus is progressing in the body that can explain why.

Diabetes as a long-term symptom?

It is observed that COVID-19 damages the organ systems as much as possible before the patient defeats the virus. This has been seen as the cause of persistent after-effects on the human body, often referred to as Long Covid. Whether or not diabetes is a symptom of long-term COVID is still unclear. However, following the observations, scientists and doctors believe that the COVID-19 virus SARS-COV-2 can lead to malfunctions in insulin and glucose metabolism that can cause diabetes.

Damage to the pancreas and possible theories:

  1. The virus is known to lower the body’s immunity threshold. The virus interacts with the ACE2 receptors and can lead to the impairment of several vital organs, including the pancreas, resulting in an insulin disorder.
  2. The other culprit could be the notorious and unpredictable response of the body’s immune system – the cytokine storm – the complication associated with viral infection that forces the immune system to turn on the body’s vital organs and systems. A cytokine storm can make it impossible for the pancreas to maintain vital functions or produce normal glucose levels.
  3. Another possibility is that the virus is affecting the lining of cells, including those in the intestines, undermining the organs’ ability to regulate and break down glucose.
  4. Could the treatment drugs be to blame? Some experts believe it is possible. Many experiments and cocktails involving drugs were brought into play as it was a new disease and steroids were sometimes used. In such cases there may be an increase in the level of sugar in the blood.

Now that cases of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes have been detected in recovered patients with COVID-19, patients have been asked to look for signs such as:

  1. Inexplicable fatigue
  2. Intense hunger and thirst
  3. Change in vision or blurred vision
  4. Slow healing and recovery from cuts, bruises and injuries
  5. Frequent urination
  6. Tingling or numbness in the body

All of the above symptoms are signs of the onset of diabetes and should be reported to your doctor immediately.

Disclaimer: The tips and suggestions in the article are for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or nutritionist before starting any fitness program or making changes to your diet.