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While diabetics aren't more likely thank anyone else to get COVID-19, they are at a greater risk of complications when contracting the virus.

Coronavirus and Diabetes

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), in the year 2018, approximately 34.2 million Americans had diabetes, which equates to 10.5% of the population. Of this 34.2 million people, approximately 7.3 million were undiagnosed. In 2018, the annual costs of diabetes in the U.S. were $327 billion to $237 billion in direct medical costs and $90 billion in reduced productivity. Since the beginning of the pandemic, healthcare costs have increased dramatically, adding to the overall costs of treating diabetes and lost production. Read on to learn about the relationship between coronavirus and diabetes, and how diabetics have been affected.

How Can COVID-19 Affect Diabetes?

There is currently no research that indicates people with diabetes are more likely to get COVID-19.

Early COVID-19 studies indicate that approximately 25% of people hospitalized for severe symptoms of COVID-19 had diabetes. This may be because elevated glucose levels weaken the immune system, causing inflammation, making it more difficult to stave off infections.

Unfortunately, what we do know is that if someone with diabetes gets COVID-19, they are more likely to have complications. The risk of complications only rises when that person has other comorbidities, such as heart disease. Age can also increase the risk of worsened complications.

The CDC reports that those with type 1 diabetes and
gestational diabetes might be at risk of severe illness. Unfortunately, we do not know enough about COVID-19 to know exactly how great the risk may be.

Is There Any Special Precautions That Should be Taken to Prevent COVID-19?

As we have already discussed, if you have diabetes, you are not any more likely than the general population in getting COVID-19.

Having glucose levels that are well-controlled can reduce the risk of serious complications, as well as getting other viral infections.

According to the American Diabetes Association, “Viral infections can also increase inflammation, or internal swelling, in people with diabetes. This can also be caused by above-target blood sugars, and that inflammation could contribute to more severe complications.”

What Do People With Diabetes Need to Know About Vaccines?

The COVID-19 vaccine is free to everyone – regardless of whether you have diabetes or not. Some providers are charging for the administration of the vaccine, not the vaccine itself. This charge is reimbursable by public or private insurance. It is also reimbursable by the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Provider Relief Fund for those who are uninsured.

It is highly recommended that those with diabetes get the vaccine. According to Robert Gabbay, MD, PhD, chief science and medical officer of the ADA, states, “It’s quite clear that people with diabetes do much worse than people without diabetes in terms of their outcomes with COVID.”

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Justin Gregory, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in Nashville Tennessee, noted in his December 2020 research that those with type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes are three times more likely to be hospitalized with severe symptoms compared to those without diabetes.

This is why it is especially important for those with diabetes to receive a vaccine. Researchers also note that vaccines are critical for people who are Black, Latino, and Native American because they are disproportionately affected by both COVID-19 and diabetes. The CDC also notes that these groups are twice as likely to die from complications of COVID-19 than white Americans.

Dr. Gabbay notes that all three vaccines – Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, and Moderna – are safe for people with diabetes. All companies included people with diabetes in their clinical trials; none of the vaccines posed any risk for those with diabetes and there were no noted interactions with medications or insulin.

Those with diabetes are not likely to have any worse side effects from the vaccines. The most common side effects include:

  • Pain, swelling, and redness at the injection site
  • Chills
  • Tiredness
  • Headaches

How Can People With Diabetes Stay Healthy?

In general, people with diabetes should follow the same precautions that people without diabetes should take:

  • Wash hands regularly
  • Avoid touching the face with hands that have been unwashed
  • Clean any surfaces that are touched frequently
  • Avoid sharing food, dishes, and drinking glasses
  • When you cough or sneeze, do so in the crook of your arm or cover your hands and mouth with a tissue
  • Avoid contact with those who are sick
  • Stay home if you have any flu-like symptoms

Those with diabetes should take additional precautions:

  • Monitor glucose levels closely
  • Be aware that infections likely cause hyperglycemia – have a plan in place for this
  • Ensure that you have a proper supply of testing supplies, pump supplies, medications – this is important because if a quarantine is required, you will be unable to leave your house to get supplies or medications
  • Keep a regular schedule – get a good night’s sleep and do not overwork yourself