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The Relationship Between COVID-19 and Type 1 Diabetes

August 4, 2021
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There have been many big questions about how the Sars-CoV-2 virus relates to diabetes, especially for our CWD community. Now that we are 18 months into the pandemic, we have more answers to help you navigate the COVID-19 era.

Q: Are adults with type 1 diabetes at an increased risk for severe illness if they contract the Sars-CoV-2 virus?

A: It is true that adults with type 1 diabetes are at an increased risk for severe illness, hospitalization, and mortality while in the hospital.1 One of the challenges is that as a person with diabetes (PWD), experiencing nausea and vomiting may also mean you are experiencing high levels of ketones. You also may not realize that you are getting close to diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), which puts you at a much higher risk for poor outcomes.1 You are also at higher risk for mortality and longer-term complications if you are an older adult, just like the general population.1 It is unknown if the duration of diabetes affects the risk level for the PWD, and if you have underlying complications, the virus can worsen those conditions.1

Q: What about kids with type 1 diabetes – is their risk higher?

A: There is no data that shows kids with type 1 diabetes have increased risk for hospitalization or death compared to kids without diabetes.1 There were some reports that showed youth with diabetes had poorer outcomes, but the sample sizes are small and according to Dr. Linda DiMeglio, the studies were prone to errors.1

Q: Is it true that the virus is causing more people to be diagnosed with diabetes?

A: We don’t know yet. There were initial reports that there was an increase in incidence of diabetes during the pandemic, but when the data was expanded to reflect the larger population, the incidence was not increased.1 Many studies do report that people are showing up newly diagnosed with diabetes, presenting more acute illness than normal, and more in DKA than usual due to delaying care.1 There have also been some reports of an increase in diagnosis of diabetes after having the COVID virus, as well as a decrease in insulin secretion and an increase in insulin resistance.5

Q: Do we know how things are going for “long-haulers” of COVID who also have diabetes?

A: This data is still being collected, but you can help play a role in this research. If you are experiencing lingering COVID symptoms and you have diabetes, you can submit your feedback to the CoviDiab Registry: CoviDiab.e-dendrite.com.1

Q: Is there anything that I can do to help reduce my risk or my family member’s risks related to COVID-19 and diabetes?

A: Get vaccinated! Maintaining blood glucose levels close to or at the target HbA1C of 7% is also recommended.1 Multiple studies have shown that high blood glucose levels while infected with COVID causes increased risk for severe illness and mortality.1,2  Additionally, we advise folks to follow the same recommendations that the CDC is recommending for everyone: stay masked, stay distanced, avoid crowded gatherings indoors, and wash hands frequently.1,3,4

With new variants of COVID ravaging the unvaccinated populations across the U.S. and worldwide, it’s important to stay up-to-date on what is happening to keep yourself, your family, and your community safe. Until then, we have vaccines, masks, hand sanitizer, and our ability to “just keep swimming” until we finally come to the end of this global health crisis. Stay strong, CWD community!

  1. COVID-19 and Type 1 Diabetes: Addressing Concerns and Maintaining Control
  2. Factors Behind the Higher COVID-19 Risk in Diabetes: A Critical Review
  3. Statement from CDC Director July 30, 2021
  4. CDC COVID-19 Home Page
  5. Proportion of newly diagnosed diabetes in COVID-19 patients: A sytematic review and meta-analysis

Written and clinically reviewed by Marissa Town, RN, BSN, CDCES