The emergence of Type 2 diabetes has been linked to so-called “long COVID” infections (COVID-19 infections with symptoms that linger for many weeks or even months). The study demonstrates that persons were 40% more likely to acquire diabetes within a year of recovering from a COVID-19 infection.
Research to be done
Before you go jumping to any conclusions, though, remember: Correlation doesn’t equal causation.
In other words, just because there’s a relationship between the two doesn’t prove one causes the other.
There’s still much more research to be done.
In the world of scientific research, however, these are still very early days.
We’re far from having answers to a lot of questions.
“Whenever we think about chronic disease processes, such as diabetes, we need to look at things in a longitudinal fashion, meaning tracking things over a period of five to 10 years at least, to really see what is happening,” says critical care physician Abhijit Duggal, MD.
What does the research show?
One early study compared 180,000 COVID-19-infected individuals to uninfected individuals. The research revealed a greater prevalence of diabetes that had not yet been detected in the COVID-19-infected group. Diabetes and COVID-19 infection were more closely related in patients with more serious illnesses who were hospitalised.
For every 1,000 persons who participated in the study, 13 more people in the COVID-19 group than in the non-COVID-19 group had diabetes diagnoses. Although that may seem like a modest amount, it quickly adds up to around 1.3 million additional instances of diabetes when you realise that nearly 100 million people in the United States have COVID-19 infection.
The study’s authors have previously demonstrated links between COVID-19 and an increase in heart failure, stroke, and kidney disease.
What doesn’t the research tell us?
What’s yet to be determined, though, is whether the correlation between long COVID and diabetes actually means that COVID-19 is causing diabetes.
Does that mean eating ice cream makes you secrete delicious ice cream-scented sweat that makes you irresistible to a Great White?
The same is true of the association between COVID-19 and diabetes, Dr Duggal says.
It could be that a COVID-19 infection triggers changes in your body that can lead to diabetes in some people.
“There is definitely an association between diabetes and COVID, but more studies need to come out to really be able to tell us whether there is a causal relationship between COVID-19 and diabetes,” Dr. Duggal notes.
“That will take time, but there are people working on this.”
Look out for signs of diabetes
Dr. Duggal advises people with COVID-19 or other diabetes risk factors to watch out for certain diabetes signs, such as:
- Blurred vision.
- Feeling very hungry or thirsty.
- Increased need to urinate (usually at night).
- Slow healing of cuts or sores.
- Tingling or numbness in your hands or feet.
- Unexplained weight loss.
It will be easier to get a thorough diagnosis and treatment plan in place if you are aware of these diabetes symptoms. If you suspect that you may be showing signs of diabetes, consult a healthcare professional.
Although we do not yet know if COVID-19 is the cause of diabetes, we do know that a COVID-19 infection is linked to a higher risk of developing diabetes. Although research is ongoing, it will be some time before we are certain of the connection between these illnesses. Take steps to prevent COVID-19 infection in the interim, and once more, discuss your risk for diabetes with a healthcare professional.
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Source: Cleveland Clinic