Kayla Hui, MPH
Trying to stay healthy after contracting COVID-19 is one hurdle, but managing it with a chronic disease can be especially challenging. Based on what is known about COVID-19, adults living with an underlying medical condition are at heightened risk for severe illness, especially people living with diabetes.1 As a result, experts are emphasizing people with diabetes should make every effort to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Compared to people without diabetes, “patients with diabetes are at higher risk for complications from COVID-19,” Minisha Sood, MD, endocrinologist and assistant professor at Zucker School of Medicine in New York, tells Verywell.
Why Are People With Diabetes at High Risk?
Sood says people with diabetes are at higher risk for complications because “the state of having diabetes is a state of chronic inflammation from elevated blood glucose.” Inflammation, as well as high blood glucose levels, are prognostic factors for severe COVID-19 in type 2 diabetes patients, according to Sood.
Type 1 diabetes patients can also experience inflammation, making them susceptible to complications.2 When blood glucose levels are not controlled through exercise or diet, a person's condition can be exacerbated. “The problem is that often, there is not sufficient high-level management of diabetes," Camillo Ricordi, MD, director of the Diabetes Research Institute, tells Verywell. "You have to be more careful of your metabolic control more than ever, especially with COVID-19."
The severity of COVID-19 depends on a person’s comorbidity. Ricordi explains that type 2 diabetes patients who have comorbidities such as cardiovascular problems, hypertension, or renal dysfunction, have an increased risk for contracting COVID-19, and even dying from it.
One research study found that the presence of diabetes upon hospitalization was a risk factor for intensive care unit (ICU) hospitalization. Patients with diabetes and those who experienced hyperglycemia with COVID-19 had a mortality rate close to five times higher than patients without diabetes or hyperglycemia.3
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), severe illness from COVID-19 can result in intubation or mechanical ventilation. In addition, “severe forms of COVID-19—those that require hospital stays or intensive care unit admissions—seem to be occurring more frequently in patients with diabetes,” Jordan Messler, MD, SFHM, FACP, executive director at Glytec, an insulin management software company, tells Verywell.
According to Sood, the following complications may arise for people with diabetes who are infected with COVID-19:
- Heart Inflammation
- Blood clots
- Respiratory failure
The ramifications of contracting COVID-19 with diabetes underscores the importance of getting vaccinated. “I recommend that all my patients with diabetes receive the COVID-19 vaccine in order to prevent severe COVID,” Sood says. “The benefits of the vaccine greatly outweigh the risks, especially in a patient population with diabetes.” It is recommended that people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes receive the vaccine, Ricordi says.
It is important to keep in mind that some allergic reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine have been reported. If you are concerned about your response to the vaccine, check in with your local healthcare provider or clinic about your allergy history. “Patients with a history of severe allergic reactions to ingredients in the vaccine should not get vaccinated,” Messler says.
What To Expect
Some questions you may consider asking your doctor before receiving the vaccine if you have diabetes include:
- How do I monitor myself after receiving the vaccine?
- What are the signs I should look out for that should prompt me to seek medical attention?
- How do I know if I am allergic to the COVID-19 vaccine?
Sood suggests that those who take insulin should use the opposite arm after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. “They may not want to inject insulin in the same arm where they’ve had the vaccine because that arm might be sore,” Sood says.
For people with the glucose-monitoring machinery at home, Soods says that it is important to monitor blood glucose levels to make sure those levels aren’t rising.
“Vaccination so far is the best protection we may get from COVID-19," Ricordi says. "Together, building the ladder of protection, and looking at your diet and lifestyle can help us become resistant."
- This article originally appeared on VeryWell Health.