Gaurav Jain (name changed upon request) recovered from a mild Covid-19 attack around Diwali and began a normal life after a short bout of weakness. Nearly three months later, Jain experienced some unusual symptoms like blurry vision, constant thirst and lethargy. He checked his blood sugar at home and to his horror, the reading came above 400 mg/dL. Before Covid, his blood sugar levels were in the normal range.
Jain rushed to the nearby hospital and was given medications along with a warning to completely transform his lifestyle. According to leading health experts, Jain is not alone as they are witnessing more Covid-recovered patients being diagnosed with diabetes and related complications.
“Corona infection can mess up with sugar levels of otherwise healthy and non-diabetic people. Those who recovered from the disease must get their glucose levels checked to avoid long-term complications,” Dheeraj Kapoor, head of department of Endocrinology at Artemis Hospital in Gurugram, told IANS.
“We are yet to ascertain why this is happening, but since this has now been observed, it is better to get the sugar test done fast,” he advised. In the Covid-19 special session at the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) in September last year, Juliana Chan from the Chinese University of Hong Kong said that SARS-CoV-2 may damage pancreatic beta-cells, the only insulin-secreting cells.
“As such, Covid-19 may precipitate diabetes in people with risk factors such as those with obesity, low socioeconomic status and psychosocial stress,” Chan warned. Diabetes and Covid-19 are silent epidemics with devastating consequences, if not diagnosed or controlled.
Rajesh Khadgawat, professor of endocrinology at AIIMS, said that Covid infection has resulted in the worsening of glycemic control in diabetic patients. “At the same time, there is new onset of diabetes in people who were not diabetic before Covid infection,” Khadgawat told IANS.
There are many mechanisms proposed for the new onset of diabetes, “but a direct role of the virus in causing diabetes has not been proven yet”. In diabetic patients who had Covid infection, worsening of diabetic control was very much shown in many studies and many of them required insulin therapy for control.
“Diabetes was one of the important risk factors for getting the infection but those who have recovered and had no history of diabetes are advised to go for sugar tests,” Khadgawat said. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 77 million people in India suffer from diabetes.
“The Covid-diabetes story highlights the huge burden of diabetes which affects 460 million people worldwide, mainly coming from developing countries with unprepared healthcare systems,” Chan said.