Diabetes Management

Can COVID-19 Trigger New Cases of Diabetes?

Dr. Sugandh Goel ,
April 2021

Although it has been more than a year since we have been living in this deadly pandemic, our information about coronavirus changes every day.

For some people, surviving COVID-19 infection may lead to a long-lasting medical condition — Diabetes. And the sad part is — these COVID-19 recovered patients didn’t have diabetes before. It seems like there is no end to the COVID woes!!!

You can call the COVID-triggered new cases of diabetes with different names — ‘new-onset diabetes’, ‘newly diagnosed diabetes’, ‘incident diabetes’, ‘transient hyperglycemia’, or ‘secondary hyperglycemia’. If these cases of newly diagnosed diabetes are not managed early on then in no time it will progress to cause multiple diabetes-related complications like heart disease, stroke, retinopathy, nephropathy, and neuropathy.

Medical Research | Does COVID-19 increase the risk of future diabetes?

Research has also supported that new-onset diabetes is another complication associated with Sars-Cov-2. Additionally, new data also suggests that COVID-19 can also worsen the already existing type 1 diabetes.

In-depth research of 8 studies with data of more than 3700 COVID-infected patients showed a pooled proportion of 14.4% for newly diagnosed diabetes. Scientists are still trying to figure out if diabetes will persist or resolve after the infection subsides. More data is needed to know what happens to the patients in the long term and whether they develop diabetes-related complications or not.

Diabetes is linked with a high risk of Covid-19 infection due to lowered immunity. This recent phenomenon of healthy individuals developing diabetes after COVID recovery has caused major concern for the medical fraternity across the globe.

Why are people developing diabetes for the first time after COVID recovery?

Doctors and scientist have done extensive research on this topic and have come up with these possible explanations –

  • Viral attack on the islets of the pancreas: The virus enters the pancreas and may dysfunction the glucose metabolism. The altered glucose metabolism leads to the worsening of pre-existing diabetes or leads to a new-onset of diabetes in previously healthy individuals.In other words, coronavirus damages the beta cells of the pancreas, which are responsible for making the hormone, insulin. Lack of insulin causes a spike in blood sugar levels resulting in diabetes.
  • Antiviral medications and hospital care: The use of antiviral drugs and pneumonia can lead to a rise in blood sugar levels. The stress, fear and anxiety caused by hospitalisation predisposes an individual to diabetes.
  • Steroid therapy: Medications that are used for COVID treatment like dexamethasone are highly diabetogenic. However, more data is needed to confirm how many cases of steroid-induced diabetes are there in the COVID recovery phase.
  • Poor lifestyle choices during the lockdown: Unhealthy dietary habits, sedentary lifestyle and the increased stress levels during lockdown have resulted in undiagnosed prediabetes or borderline diabetes, which progressed to fully-established diabetes in the recovery phase of COVID.

However, the exact mechanism by which the SARS virus influences glucose metabolism resulting in hyperglycemia is still unclear. Additionally, we are yet to discover whether human contact with this novel coronavirus represents classic type1, type 2 or a new form of diabetes.

How to prevent newly-onset Diabetes after COVID recovery?

A healthy lifestyle! If you want me to shout my lungs out, I would probably do that to stress that a healthy lifestyle with a well-balanced diet and moderate physical activity is the key to prevent long term complications of COVID-19, including newly onset diabetes.

Apart from eating clean, manage your stress levels with yoga and meditation. Increased stress levels trigger the hormone cortisol, which also increases your risk for diabetes. Adequate sleep and rest are also essential to combat this deadly pathogen.

Additionally, lose weight healthily to prevent this chronic disease in the COVID recovery phase. You can do this by making small changes in your diet, switching to water from sugary beverages, exercising by beginning with simple walking etc.

“A healthy weight loss during COVID recovery phase will help in maintaining insulin sensitivity and prevent the progression to type 2 diabetes,” said Dr G Sai Mala, Head of Operations of the Digital Therapeutics Programs at Fitterfly.

How to manage newly diagnosed diabetes after COVID recovery?

Fluctuations in blood sugar levels leading to newly diagnosed diabetes can be very stressful for a patient who recovered after a recent COVID-19 infection.

To help manage blood sugars more effectively in these transient cases of diabetes, Team Fitterfly has launched the Digital Therapeutics (DTx) Diabetes Care Program — Diabefly Pro. It has the following advantages:

  1. A Certified Diabetes Educator and Coach provide in-depth assessment and easy-to-follow diet plans to keep your blood sugar levels within the targeted range.
  2. A Clinical Psychologist helps you to reduce your stress levels and promote emotional well-being during these challenging times.
  3. A Certified Physiotherapist gives you a personalised exercise plan to prevent weight gain after COVID recovery and improve diabetes-related outcomes.
  4. Diabefly Pro is a DTx program that helps you achieve your health goals while you are quarantined at home.

Earlier COVID-19 and now diabetes, don’t let these deadly diseases take a toll on you one after the other. Get 360° care with Diabefly Pro. Together let’s bring an end to the dual pandemic of diabetes & COVID-19!

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