Can Covid trigger diabetes? Recovered patients report elevated sugar levels

  • While Covid can make recovery of a diabetes patient harder, can the deadly virus trigger diabetes in people who did not have it earlier? A doctor answers.
Post recovery, patients may develop symptoms of diabetes(Pixabay)
Post recovery, patients may develop symptoms of diabetes(Pixabay)
Published on Sep 26, 2021 03:09 PM IST
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By Parmita Uniyal

Diabetes can increase your chances of getting seriously ill in case of a Covid infection, suggested a health study. Many diabetes patients during second wave reported elevated sugar levels due to steroid use. It happens because liver tends to produce more sugar during steroid treatment, or steroids make it harder for body to move our sugar from the blood. Your body may also become resistant to insulin while you are taking steroids, according to research.

While Covid makes recovery of a diabetes patient harder, can the deadly virus trigger diabetes in people who did not have it earlier?

It looks like, because doctors across the country are now observing an increase in the number of patients discharged from Covid-19 wards having elevated blood sugar levels. “Around 20-30% of post Covid patients who were treated for severe illness have developed diabetes or high blood sugar level after their recovery,” says Dr. Edwin J George, MBBS MD DNB MNAMS FDM MACP, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine, Consultant in Diabetes Medicine & Critical Care, Amala Institute of Medical Sciences, Thrissur, Kerala.

ALSO READ: Coronavirus: Novel way to manage Diabetes amid Covid-19

Post recovery, patients may develop the following symptoms of diabetes - increased thirst and increased frequency to pass urine, blurred vision, slow healing of wounds, extreme tiredness and inability to regain the lost weight. If you are facing any of the above-mentioned symptoms, you must get tested for diabetes.

"During the first year of the pandemic, many people with type 2 diabetes presented with diabetic ketoacidosis, a rare finding in type 2 diabetes, raising the suspicion that the virus directly affects the pancreatic insulin-producing cells 1," says Dr. George.

Dr George lists reasons how Covid could possibly trigger diabetes in people:


"Those recovered may have prediabetes (when the blood sugar levels are higher but can’t be classified as diabetes) or pre-existing conditions before SARS-CoV-2 infection. In these patients, steroids which may be continued even after discharge, can raise the blood sugar levels," says Dr George.

2. Coronavirus spike protein can damage beta cells in pancreas

"Also, recent studies show that coronavirus spike protein can cause damage to the beta cells in the pancreas that secrete insulin. As a result of this damage, the pancreas may not maintain normal blood sugar levels and regulate glucose into the body’s cells, causing increased blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia)," says Dr George.

While people may notice symptoms of diabetes post their recovery, is there any way to know if the diabetes has developed due to Covid or other lifestyle or genetic reasons?

"Regular monitoring of HbA1C levels indicative of the previous three-month sugar control is advised for all Covid patients. The normal range will indicate normal blood sugar levels before Covid. Hyperglycemia in post-covid patients who have not received steroids may indicate that the Coronavirus has triggered diabetes in them," says Dr George.

How to prevent the risk of getting diabetes post Covid recovery?

Dr George says it is important to regain the lost weight after Covid and following certain lifestyle measures post recovery can be helpful:

* Consuming a healthy diet rich in fiber

* Walking daily

* Avoiding aerated beverages, smoking and alcohol consumption

* Regularly monitoring blood glucose levels

* Taking plenty of fluids

* Getting enough sleep

* Sticking to medicines prescribed by the doctor

"It is recommended to consult the treating doctor and monitor the blood glucose level more frequently to avoid complications," concludes Dr George.

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Sunday, October 24, 2021