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What risks does Covid-19 pose for diabetics?

For more than a year the global coronavirus pandemic has dramatically affected the daily lives of individuals. At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, diabetics were included in the list of those people at risk, generating major concerns among patients. The relationship between diabetes and Covid-19 therefore raised many questions and hypotheses. Given the months of hindsight we now have and with more precise scientific medical studies, where are we now?

Reassuring data

We now know with certainty that diabetics are no more at risk of contracting Covid-19 than the rest of the population. Age remains the main risk factor, followed by gender, asthe disease affects more men than women.

Nevertheless, complications in the event of infection (pneumonia or acute respiratory distress) have been observed in people with pathologies associated with diabetes, such as overweight or obesity, and cardiovascular, pulmonary or hepatic pathologies, which obviously raises concerns.

However, in February 2021, a French study identified seven chronic health conditions producing a very high risk of hospitalisation and death: Down’s syndrome, mental retardation, kidney and lung transplants, dialysis, cystic fibrosis and lung cancer. Again, no mention of diabetes. There was, therefore, confusion between the risk of contracting Covid-19 and the risk of developing severe symptoms and complications if Covid-19 is contracted. In fact, in people with diabetes, all forms of viral infections are generally more complicated to treat because of fluctuating and often high blood sugar levels, which indicates a certain weakness in the immune system.

Diabetes on its own is not a risk factor for severe symptoms

The medical world considers it more important to consider a patient’s state of health in general in order to best assess the state of their immune system. Age, overweight or obesity, often high blood sugar levels, complications from diabetes and other health problems are all factors that could lead to severe Covid-19 symptoms. Furthermore, the Coronado study showed that adult type 2 diabetes patients with an average age of 70 developed severe forms of Covid-19 following infection.

So, diabetes alone will not necessarily be the cause of severe symptoms and possible complications, but it is a prognostic factor. It is important to note that the factors associated with the development of more severe forms and death linked to Covid-19 remain hypotheses drawn from observational studies which have yet to be confirmed. Furthermore, these epidemiological data do not specify the type of diabetes concerned. However, a type 1 diabetic patient and a type 2 diabetic patient do not require the same treatment for severe Covid-19 symptoms because of the diversity of diabetes characteristics.

Maintain a good diet and exercise

Whether a patient has type 1, type 2 or gestational diabetes, the principle of self-monitoring remains essential to maintaining balanced and non-dangerous diabetes. All health authorities recommend that you follow your treatments in the event of contamination and confinement, maintain a good diet and continue to do physical exercise to maintain blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible.

www.federationdesdiabetiques.org : Diabète et Covid-19 : le point sur vos risques
www.diabete.qc.ca : COVID-19: les risques pour les personnes vivant avec le diabète

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