COVID-19 and Diabetes
We have heard that those with certain conditions, including diabetes, are more susceptible to severe illness from COVID-19. More than 34 million Americans, 10 percent of the population, have diabetes, which is irreversible. What’s more, diabetes can cause major life-limiting damage.
People who have diabetes struggle with heart disease, kidney disease, nerve damage, foot sores, poor oral health, hearing and vision loss, and mental health issues at much higher rates than those who do not have diabetes. Poor function in each of these many areas relates to a decreased ability to fight COVID-19.
The most important thing to do is to manage your condition, so that it causes as little damage as possible. Eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of exercise, and monitoring your blood sugar as recommended will help prevent the damage and improve your response if you become infected with COVID-19.
To prepare for getting sick, make sure that you have at least a two-week supply of your diabetes pills and insulin. Visit the Managing Sick Days page of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s diabetes website for a list of foods and other supplies to keep on hand.
If you become ill, call your doctor, who may recommend testing your blood sugar more regularly and continue taking your diabetes pills and insulin as usual. The website also includes diabetes-specific instructions for when to visit your local Emergency Department.
A staggering 88 million—more than 1 in 3—have prediabetes, an early stage of the disease that is reversible. More than 84 percent of them don’t know they have it. Given all that we know about diabetes itself and its tendency to make us more vulnerable to infections like COVID-19, it’s a great time to find out if you have prediabetes and to begin taking action to prevent diabetes.
Visit the CDC’s website for a quick online prediabetes test. Next, you can call your doctor or associate provider to order a blood test for diabetes and prediabetes and provide results as a part of a normal checkup. Once you know whether you have prediabetes, there are lots of good resources available, including the CDC’s Lifestyle Change Program and a colorful, interactive guide called On Your Way to Preventing Type 2 Diabetes. The guide is available to anyone, whether they have diabetes or not, which means that everyone can learn to make healthier choices.
For additional details, I invite you to reach out to me. I am one of Southwestern Vermont Medical Center’s Diabetes Educators, and I see patients for free. For more information and contact details, visit SVMC’s Diabetes Education website. You can also call me at 802-440-4025.
By working together, we can help limit the effects of diabetes during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond and help prevent diabetes among those who are at risk.
Paula Haytko, RN, CDE, is a certified diabetes educator with SVMC Diabetes Education.