Type 2 diabetes: The dangers that can arise if you get coronavirus

Type 2 diabetes describes what happens when a person’s pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin to regulate blood sugar levels. If left untreated, this impaired mechanism can raise the risk of developing heart disease and stroke so it is important to keep blood sugar levels in check by following a healthy lifestyle. High blood sugar levels is a well-documented threat to blood sugar management, but recently, a new threat has emerged.


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Coronavirus (COVID-19), a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways, has been identified as posing particular health threat to people with diabetes.

Reports suggest that coronavirus – or COVID-19 – can cause more severe symptoms and complications in people with diabetes.

As the American Diabetes Association (ADA) explains, the risk association is based on previous interactions between diabetes and respiratory infections, such as the flu.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in recent seasons, about 30 percent of adult flu hospitalisations reported to CDC have had diabetes.


Why does respiratory infections make diabetes worse?

As the CDC explains, diabetes can make the immune system less able to fight infections, heightening the risk of complications.

In addition, illness can make it harder to control your blood sugar, explains the health site.

Flu, for example, may raise your sugar levels, but sometimes people don’t feel like eating when they are sick and a reduced appetite can cause blood sugar levels to fall, notes the health body.

The ADA has issued an emergency plan for people with diabetes to prepare for the coronavirus.

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The health body recommends the following:

  • Gather your supplies:
  • Phone numbers of your doctors and healthcare team, your pharmacy, and your insurance provider
  • List of medications and doses (including vitamins and supplements)
  • Simple carbs like regular soda, honey, jam, jelly, hard sweets or popsicles to help keep your blood sugar up if you are at risk for lows and too ill to eat
  • If a state of emergency is declared, get extra refills on your prescriptions so you do not have to leave the house
  • Always have enough insulin for the week ahead, in case you get sick or cannot refill
  • Extra supplies like rubbing alcohol and soap to wash your hands
  • Glucagon and ketone strips, in case of lows and highs

Talk to your healthcare team about the following:

  • When to call your doctor’s office (for ketones, changes in food intake, medication adjustments)
  • How often to check your blood sugar
  • When to check for ketones
  • Medications you should use for colds, flu, virus, and infections
  • Any changes to your diabetes medications when you are sick

What should I do if I get sick?

The ADA says to:

  • Drink lots of fluids. If you’re having trouble keeping water down, have small sips every 15 minutes or so throughout the day to avoid dehydration.
  • If you are experiencing a low (BG below 70 mg/dl or your target range), eat 15 grams of simple carbs that are easy to digest like, honey, jam, jelly, hard sweets, popsicles, juice or regular soda, and re-check your blood sugar in 15 minutes to make sure you are coming up. Check your blood sugar extra times throughout the day and night (generally, every 2-3 hours, with a CGM, monitor frequently)
  • If your blood sugar has registered high (BG greater than 240mg/dl) more than two times in a row, check for ketones to avoid DKA.
  • Call your doctor’s office immediately if you have medium or large ketones (and if instructed to with trace or small ketones).
  • Be aware that some CGM sensors (Dexcom G5, Medtronic Enlite, and Guardian) are impacted by Acetaminophen (Tylenol). Check with finger sticks to ensure accuracy.
  • Change your lancet every time you check your blood sugar.
  • Wash your hands and clean your injection/infusion and finger-stick sites with soap and water or rubbing alcohol.
  • What are the complications associated with type 2 diabetes?
  • According to the NHS, the most worrisome complications heart disease and stroke, both of which can be life-threatening.


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Diabetes also worsens the effects of smoking on your heart, notes the health body.

Other complications include:

  • Loss of feeling and pain (nerve damage) – causing problems with sex
  • Foot problems – like sores and infections
  • Vision loss and blindness
  • Miscarriage and stillbirth
  • Problems with your kidneys

How to keep complications at bay

“Controlling your blood sugar level and having regular diabetes check-ups is the best way to lower your risk of complications,” explains the NHS.

What are the warning signs of type 2 diabetes?

Many people have type 2 diabetes without realising. This is because symptoms do not necessarily make you feel unwell.

If you do experience symptoms, however, these include:

  • Urinating more than usual, particularly at night
  • Feeling thirsty all the time
  • Feeling very tired
  • Losing weight without trying to
  • Itching around your penis or vagina, or repeatedly getting thrush
  • Cuts or wounds taking longer to heal
  • Blurred vision

You should see a GP if you have any of the symptoms of type 2 diabetes or you’re worried you may have a higher risk of getting it, advises the NHS.

The earlier diabetes is diagnosed and treatment started, the better.

As the NHS highlights, early treatment reduces your risk of other health problems.

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