Why diabetes is at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 11:40 AM, Oct 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-28 11:40:50-04

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - We all need to continue to be cautious as the COVID-19 pandemic still lingers all around us.

Diabetes is one of the medical conditions that has received additional attention during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Diabetes in itself affects your immune system, and because of that impact and increased blood sugar, it lowers your ability for your immune system to work appropriately," said Dr. Ryan Light.

Light, a doctor with Greenbrier Family Medicine in Chesapeake, says those with diabetes don't have an increased risk of catching COVID-19 - but could have worse complications.

"You can see this in Asians who are thin, African Americans who are obese, or in really an combinations," said Light.

Type 2 is the most prevalent, says Light. That's when your body can't make enough insulin to convert glucose to energy.

In Type 1, more rare insulin-producing pancreatic cells are destroyed.

"As we age, our pancreas doesn't work quite as well, so we all see that we age and obesity increases. When that combines, it's the greatest risk for diabetes," Light said.

Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that three-fourts of people who died from COVID-19 had at least one preexisting condition. Diabetes was noted as underlying in 4 out of 10 patients.

"If your diabetes is well-controlled and you have an A1C of less than 7, you are doing a good job controlling diabetes, so it decreases your risk of having serious complications from COVID," Light said.

Light says diet and exercise are key to controlling diabetes, as well as regular doctor visits, proper handwashing, hygiene and mask-wearing to prevent the spread.