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COVID-19 & Diabetes: What You Need to Know

COVID-19 & Diabetes: What You Need to Know

With Endocrinologist Manivel K. Eswaran, MD

In the U.S., more than 460,000 people have tragically lost their lives to COVID-19. Nearly 30% of those who’ve died had Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, according to Sarasota Memorial endocrinologist Manivel K. Eswaran, MD. 

“Diabetics are at increased risk of death and severe complications from COVID-19, so they should be concerned about the disease,” said Dr. Eswaran, a specialist with the First Physicians Group Endocrinology Practice.

People with Type 1 diabetes are three times more likely to succumb to COVID-19, and Type 2 diabetics are twice as likely, Dr. Eswaran explained. However, maintaining careful control of their diabetes could even the odds in their favor.

Dr. Eswaran's practice focus includes the treatment of diabetes and metabolic disease, thyroid masses and disorders, parathyroid dysfunction and bone health, pituitary tumors and disease, adrenal disorders and gonadal dysfunction. Here, he addresses some of the most common questions about diabetes and COVID-19.

Manivel Eswaran, MDWhy are diabetics at higher risk of dying from COVID-19?

The problem with diabetes is that it is often linked to other chronic health conditions — heart disease, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease. And each of those conditions also increases the patient’s risk of complications with COVID-19. That's the main reason why diabetics should be concerned about COVID-19.

If I’m diabetic, how can I reduce my risk of having severe COVID-19 or fatal complications?

  • The best thing you can do is to get your sugars under control. If your diabetes is under good control, your chances of developing a severe complication from COVID-19 is very low, compared to a diabetic who has uncontrolled sugars. 

  • Eat healthy, exercise regularly, take your medicines on time, keep an eye on your blood sugars, and see your doctor(s) as usual. If you’re not comfortable coming to the doctor's office, do a video or a telephone visit.

  • And continue the same basic, commonsense precautions that are recommended for everyone during this pandemic: wash your hands (or use hand sanitizer), avoid people who are sick, social distance, wear a mask and when you can, get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for people with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes?

Yes. In clinical trials for both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, at least 9% of the study participants were diabetic. It is definitely safe for diabetics to take the vaccine.

That said, diabetics should keep a close eye on their sugars for at least 3 days after the vaccinations. Fever and chills are common side effects of the second-dose injection; and when you're a diabetic and you develop a fever, your sugars are going to go up. So remember to closely monitor them for at least 72 hours.

Are diabetics more at risk for long-term effects of COVID-19? 

So far, we don't have any data that diabetics are more prone to long-lasting effects but if there is some, it usually will show up in their blood sugars.

That's a number one thing diabetics need to watch for: if they're requiring more medicines than before or if their blood sugar continues to be high on their current treatment. Then there might be something going on and that's when they need to discuss with their doctor.

What’s the bottom line?

The bottom line is that if those living with diabetes — Type 1 or Type 2 — keep their blood sugars under control and follow all commonsense COVID-19 precautions, the chances of experiencing serious complications will go down considerably.

Think about it this way: If you're elderly, getting COVID-19 can be dangerous; but you can't “fix” your age. If you have heart disease, you have heart disease; you can’t “fix” that. But if you have diabetes, you can control your sugars, and that will decrease your risk of COVID-19 complications. You have some control.

Have a question for an SMH expert? Email it askanexpert@smh.com.


Phil LedererBlog post written by SMH copywriter Phil Lederer. As a Sarasota Memorial copywriter and wordsmith, Lederer crafts a variety of external communications for the healthcare system. He earned his master’s degree in public administration and political philosophy from Morehead State University, Ky.

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Posted: Feb 8, 2021,
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