How COVID-19 Can Affect People With Diabetes

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If you have diabetes, you’re not more likely to contract COVID-19 than someone who doesn’t have diabetes—but if you do get COVID-19, data shows that you could experience a worse outcome, says Arti Bhan, M.D., division head of endocrinology at Henry Ford Health System.

“This data, however, applies to those with Type 2 diabetes,” says Dr. Bhan. “Data on patients with Type 1 diabetes is not as robust, but these patients should take as much precaution against COVID-19 as anyone else.”

Why Type 2 Diabetes Is In The High-Risk Category

“If you have Type 2 diabetes and you get an infection, your blood sugar will rise," says Dr. Bhan. "This rise in blood sugar can cause a longer delay in recovering from the infection, or it could lead to other secondary infections as well." In people with Type 2 diabetes, COVID-19 can cause detrimental effects such as:

  • Nerve damage
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Kidney injuries and kidney disease
  • Blood clots, which can lead to stroke and heart failure

“People tend to only look at the survival rate when it comes to COVID-19, but patients can be left with so many lingering problems,” says Dr. Bhan.

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How You Can Lower Your Risk

“COVID-19 patients with Type 2 diabetes who come into the hospital with high blood sugar tend to have worse outcomes than those with Type 2 diabetes who come into the hospital with normal blood sugar levels," says Dr. Bhan. “That’s why you should get your blood sugar—and all of your risk factors—under control, especially right now.”

Here’s what you can do to lower your risk of infection and control your diabetes:

  • Wear a face mask in public. It can protect you, as well as those around you, from contracting COVID-19. Make sure it fits snugly around your face, and that it extends from the bridge of your nose to underneath your chin.
  • Social distance. Stay away from crowds and maintain at least a 6-foot distance between yourself and anyone who doesn’t live in your home.
  • Practice diligent hand hygiene. Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, especially after touching high-touch surfaces, like doorknobs, elevator buttons, countertops, cell phones, keys and wallets.
  • Stay in contact with your doctor and ensure you have all necessary medicine. “If you don’t feel comfortable coming into your doctor’s office at this time, you can schedule a virtual appointment,” says Dr. Bhan. “Make sure you have all of the medications and supplies you need. Plan ahead so you don’t run out. If you have any problems, call your doctor’s office. Keeping your diabetes controlled is paramount.”
  • Eat a healthy diet and exercise. Whether you walk up and down the stairs in your house, take a walk around the neighborhood, or get your heart pumping in your home gym, exercising daily is incredibly important—right along with eating a heart-healthy diet filled with fruits, vegetables and healthy protein.
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To book an appointment with a Henry Ford diabetes specialist, visit www.henryford.com/services/diabetes.

Dr. Arti Bhan is the division head of endocrinology for Henry Ford Health System and sees patients for diabetes, thyroid disorders and other conditions at Henry Ford Medical Centers in Detroit and Novi.

Categories: FeelWell