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  • Writer's pictureRichard Kadri-Langford

Type 2 diabetes risk rises after Covid-19

Updated: Jul 22, 2022

A number of studies have shown that diabetes, in common with certain other conditions, can be a risk factor when considering the likely severity of Covid-19. This, as Diabetes UK points out, [1] doesn’t mean that a person with diabetes (PWD) is more likely to catch Covid-19 than any other individual, merely that those with diabetes are more vulnerable to developing a severe illness.

Now studies have shown that the link between diabetes and covid works both ways with the risk of developing diabetes rising in those who have had Covid-19. The first study from Germany [2] compared Covid-19 sufferers with individuals who had previously had acute upper respiratory infections (AURI). The researchers concluded that 1.58 % of individuals who had suffered from Covid-19 had gone on to develop Type 2 diabetes, compared with 1.23% of those who had had AURI.

Researchers theorised that one of the reasons for this increased risk was that Covid-19 can attack the pancreas and therefore affect insulin management in the body. However, they also commented that some of the individuals identified may already have had a pre-diabetes condition, with the stress of Covid-19 triggering the body’s auto-immune system into fully developing diabetes.

Another study from the USA [3] which was reported in The Lancet in May 2022 revealed that people were 40% more likely to develop diabetes within a year of contracting Covid-19, when compared with individuals who had not suffered from Covid-19. Although the relative risk of developing diabetes post-covid is still relatively small at somewhere between one and two percent, this still translates worldwide as millions of people developing diabetes who might otherwise not have gone on to develop the condition.

Ziyad Al-Aly, the lead author of the study commented that

"What's surprising is that it is happening in people with no prior risk factors for diabetes," adding that even those who developed a mild form of Covid-19 were still at risk. As a result, the study’s authors have called for diabetes identification to be included in any post-covid recovery plan.

That may be a relatively simple task for those who have suffered from a more severe form of Covid-19 and are therefore on a formal post-covid management plan. But those who may only have had a more mild form of the disease may not have cause to visit their health practice. An awareness campaign might help, encouraging people to look out for common symptoms including feeling thirsty and tired or needing to go to the loo more often. Increasing the availability of diabetes screening devices such as that being developed by Occuity may also help, enabling people to check their diabetes risk in a non-clinical setting.

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