Why Coronavirus Is Dangerous For Diabetics

There’s a lot of information out
right now about the coronavirus. It’s safe to say almost everyone in
the world is worried about either contracting or spreading the virus. It can be terrifying for
an average healthy person. But what about those
who are high-risk? And the people who get into trouble,
namely who need to be hospitalized, some of whom need intensive care,
are very heavily weighted towards elderly people and those with
underlying conditions like chronic heart disease, chronic lung disease,
kidney disease, diabetes. But why is diabetes on that list
when coronavirus is described as a respiratory illness? The WHO and the CDC putting out
a blanket statement that people have diabetes are at a higher risk. That is very scary to people. And I don’t know that it fully
paints the real picture of what’s happening here. Actor Tom Hanks, who has Type
2 diabetes, was diagnosed with the virus, bringing even more attention and
concern for those living with diabetes as a Type 1 diabetic. I’ve been sheltering in place, but I’m
still anxious as to why I’m at higher risk than everyone else. So we wanted to explore why
is coronavirus more dangerous for diabetics? Diabetes is a complicated disease. There are different types and
many ways to treat it. In 2019, 463 million adults were
living with the disease globally. When someone has diabetes, their body’s
ability to produce insulin is impaired or completely stops. Type 1 diabetics make no insulin at
all and need to inject it. Type 1 makes up 10 percent of
those who are living with diabetes globally. The more common type is type 2. This could mean the body doesn’t
use insulin properly or make enough. It has many forms of treatment
that could include medication, diet, exercise, and many need
to start insulin injections. Either form come with high blood sugar
and high blood sugar can make people more susceptible to other illnesses. And this is a big concern with
people with diabetes is that people with higher blood sugar levels could
be more susceptible to coronavirus. Managing diabetes isn’t as
simple as taking insulin. A lot of other
factors come into play. That’s probably one of the few
topics that make the coronavirus different in people with diabetes. Assuming the immune system
is the same. Is that we have to
deal with the blood sugars. Many things influence how blood
sugar rises and falls. Some are obvious, like the amount
of carbs digested and correctly dosing insulin to the amount of carbs eaten. But there’s also exercise, stress. Just sitting out in the sun
too long can have dramatic effects. Keeping blood sugars in range
reduces the high-risk of contracting coronavirus, but the chance of getting sick
is still as likely as the average person. We spoke to a type
1 diabetic who was recently diagnosed with the coronavirus. I started feeling symptoms like
like slight symptoms Sunday night. I had been at my
girlfriend’s Sunday and Monday. That’s when we saw the 103 fever. And she took me to the doctors
where they gave me an antibiotic and antiviral. The next night, my fever
had gone up to 103. And by the Wednesday morning at 5
or 6, I was 93 and sweating. So we decided to call 9-1-1. They took me to a hospital. But because the type 1, I think that’s
why they admitted me to the ICU and tested me. Patrick is a 30-year-old
type 1 diabetic with well-controlled blood sugars. We spoke to him five
days after testing positive for the coronavirus. Luckily, he is now recovered,
but because of his diabetes, he was put in the intensive
care unit for two nights. Yesterday was the first day I woke
up without a headache and everything. And I pretty much
feel the same today. I haven’t had a fever. I’ve been monitoring my temperature. My cough is small. I feel good. The American Diabetes
Association states people with diabetes are not more likely to get
covid-19 than the general population. The problem people with diabetes face
is primarily a problem of worse outcomes, not greater chance
of contracting the virus. One of the things, particularly very
high blood sugar levels suppress your immune system and and make
people more susceptible to infection. And we see this obviously, for
example, with wound healing, with diabetes that has gone on for a long time
or has high levels of blood sugar. So this is a concern when when
you have a novel infection like corona, people with diabetes
are obviously concerned. Illness is a very common
reason for elevated blood sugars. If you’re sick with the flu or
the coronavirus, the lack of appetite, sleep and just the stress of sickness
make it harder to manage your diabetes. If you have chronically elevated
blood sugar levels, let’s say over 200. Not just one time. You know, I’m talking about
months and months and months. Then your immune system just
doesn’t work that well. The antibodies that usually attack foreign
bodies just don’t work as well. And so those folks are more susceptible,
but the actual immune system is exactly the same. Type 2 diabetes,
there’s this kind of chronic pro-inflammatory situation that underlies the type
2 diabetes and this kind of chronic low grade pro-inflammatory state,
the patients for type 2 diabetes have ultimately a response to
an infection may be somewhat delayed and modified. And that modification is unfavorable,
typically with an inadequate immune response to say agents
like the covid-19 virus. The coronavirus could also affect
the $24 billion insulin market. Before the pandemic sent shockwaves
through the economy, millions of diabetics were facing a crisis, the
price and the availability of insulin. The number one concern I hear in
the diabetes community, it’s actually even beyond an infection is
access to insulin. A person with diabetes, type 1 can essentially
go just a day or two without insulin at the most. And diabetes was a
fatal disease before insulin. The good news is the manufacturers
are stating publicly that the supply chain is safe right now. Another part of that is people
are insecure about their employment right now and in the United States. If you’re under, under or unemployed,
you may lose insurance coverage and insulin is too expensive. That’s another story that was in the
news quite a bit before this happened. But it’s still a problem. Because of the high price of insulin
in the United States some diabetics have turned to Canada to get
it at a lower cost. But now that the border is closed,
it creates yet another hurdle for people to find cheaper options. The two biggest manufacturers of insulin,
Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk, both stated that they have policies in place
for long term supplies of insulin and plans for those
who can’t afford it. I mean, we absolutely need to keep
our business running for our patients. If we were to to quit manufacturing
product and eat into all the stock that we have and wake up one day with
no product in a time of need like this is out there, it
would just be horrible. So we feel a very, very
important responsibility to do that. Dexcom manufactures continuous glucose monitors
that allow users to see their blood sugar 24/7. The company said it had close to 650,000
patients using its CGM at the end of 2019. I don’t think there’s ever
been a more important time for somebody to keep themselves within a
very narrow band of glucose control, and the only way to do
that is with the sensors. People need this product. So we’ve kept our
manufacturing operations open. At the moment, everything seems to
be running smoothly, but the uncertainty about how long this will go on
is making lots of diabetics concerned for their future. They’re concerned about
having diabetes and with the coronavirus situation, being quarantined in home
or at least trying to stay away from everybody,
as you know. Do you have enough medication? You’ve got to have insulin. You got to
have the pills if you have type 2 diabetes. Pharmacies like Walgreens and CVS
remain open and have waived their delivery fees. There are also smaller businesses stepping
up to help get medicine to those in need. Here’s what 90 days
of supplies looks like for me. This will keep me alive
for the next three months. Some diabetics live day-to-day
and week-to-week on supplies. So it’s incredibly important that
manufacturers and pharmacies stay open during this time. The biggest takeaway for
any diabetic is to do your best to avoid getting sick. The American Diabetes Association says diabetics
are not more likely to get the virus, but will struggle
in recovery if they do. If you look at people who die
that we’ve had reports the medical literature from covid-19 virus at this time. Diabetes did independently stand
out in one study. It was suggestive. Another study, it was patients who were
older with diabetes who also had coronary heart disease. We are really trying to reassure people
with diabetes in a time of incredible fear. You can imagine this is a
pandemic like we’ve never seen before. People with diabetes live with a chronic
disease that puts them at risk for complications that
can be serious. And what we’re trying to do
is get information out there. It starts with the fundamentals. Stay as healthy as possible. Isolate. Distance. Wash your hands. I live with type 1, as does my
brother, taking care of ourselves now is as important as it’s ever been.


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