NON-COMMUNICABLE DISEASE

Explainer: Diabetes and Covid-19

Diabetic patients are twice more likely to require intensive care than Covid-19 patients without it.

In Summary
  • The immune system is compromised, making it harder to fight the virus and likely leading to a longer recovery period.
  • The virus may thrive in an environment of elevated blood glucose.
A nurse at the Kapsabet County Referral Hospital isolation ward for Covid-19 patients
A nurse at the Kapsabet County Referral Hospital isolation ward for Covid-19 patients
Image: FILE

More than 50 percent of Kenyans who have died from Covid-19 had non-communicable diseases, according to Rashid Aman, Chief Administrative Secretary in the Ministry of Health.

He recently said 16 per cent of critically ill Covid-19 patients had diabetes, while diabetes and hypertension combined accounted for 47 percent of those who have died from pre-existing conditions.

Diabetic patients are twice more likely to require intensive care than Covid-19 patients without it, he said.

 

According to a study in the Lancet, the reason for worse prognosis in people with diabetes is multifaceted.

For people with diabetes their age, sex, ethnicity, comorbidities such as hypertension and cardiovascular disease, and obesity all probably contribute to the risk of worse outcomes.

According to the study (Titled ‘Covid-19 in people with diabetes: Understanding the reasons for worse outcomes’), when people with diabetes develop a viral infection, it can be harder to treat due to fluctuations in blood glucose levels and the presence of diabetes complications.

Firstly, the immune system is compromised, making it harder to fight the virus and likely leading to a longer recovery period.

Secondly, the virus may thrive in an environment of elevated blood glucose. The inflammatory nature of diabetes and high blood sugar promote the virus’ inflammatory surge.

When the body becomes this inflamed, it triggers an abnormal immune response that instead of just attacking the virus, affects the rest of the body’s healthy cells and tissue, leading to rapid deterioration in health.

Patients with poorly controlled blood glucose levels are therefore more likely to experience complications or in-hospital death due to Covid-19. 

 

The advice to people with diabetes is to practice social distancing and handwashing like the rest of the population, to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and to try to keep blood sugars in an ideal range where possible.

Sources: WHO and the Lancet