Evidence is Accumulating that People Who Have Had COVID-19 Are More Likely to Develop Diabetes -- Possibly A Form that Is Caused by Damage to the Pancreas
It has long been known that people with Type 2 Diabetes have been experiencing worse outcomes when infected with the COVID-19 virus. But new evidence is accumulating that people who had no sign of diabetes before being infected are also developing diabetes at a rate that is much higher than that of people of the same description who have not been infected.
Among the studies that support this finding are one that was just published in the journal Nature. As only the abstract is available online now I am relying on articles by journalists that describe the findings about diabetes. You can read one of these yourself at this link which makes public the text of an article by Bloomberg news that is behind a paywall:
The gist of the finding as reported in that article is that " COVID-19 survivors were about 39% more likely to have a new diabetes diagnosis in the six months after infection than non-infected users of the VA health system. The risk works out to about 6.5 additional diabetes cases for every 1,000 COVID-19 patients who don’t end up in the hospital. For those who do, the probability jumps to 37 per 1,000 — and it’s even higher for patients who required intensive care."
Research by British scientists also found a similar rise in cases of diabetes after COVID-19. This article does a good job of discussing these findings:
What To Do If You Get Diagnosed With Diabetes After Having COVID-19
It is not my goal here to explore why you might have come down with diabetes after getting this terrible virus. One of the things I've learned over the years is that there are dozens of different underlying biological causes for diabetes. What they all share in common is that you can make a huge difference in your health by learning what blood sugar levels are normal, what blood sugar levels cause the organ damage attributed to diabetes, and then taking the well-understood steps that can keep your blood sugars under those levels.
No matter what caused your diabetes, if you can keep your blood sugars at normal levels you will not developed the devastating "complications" of diabetes: heart attack, kidney failure, nerve pain, or retinal damage. This is not theory. It has been proven over the past 20+ years by those of us who met online and pioneered the idea that normal blood sugars produce normal health. We are all still here, still doing very well, and you can too!
You can learn what blood sugar levels are normal HERE.
You can learn what blood sugar levels cause organ damage HERE.
You can learn how to lower your blood sugar HERE.
Special Considerations if Your Diabetes Is COVID-19 Related
The Bloomberg article cited above reports that some people diagnosed with "Type 2" diabetes are showing up in hospitals with blood sugars so high they are causing ketoacidosis. Since there is also some evidence that the COVID-19 infection is damaging the pancreas it is extremely likely that these people do not actually have Type 2 Diabetes.
People with Type 2 diabetes have elevated blood sugars that are significantly affected by strong insulin resistance at the cellular level. They may also have damaged pancreases, but they still produce enough insulin to survive and do not die without insulin.
But people whose pancreases have been damaged beyond a certain point no longer can get by with the drugs given to people with Type 2 Diabetes. They have a form of Type 1 Diabetes. This requires that they be prescribed insulin and have their condition managed by an endocrinologist--a specialist in diabetes. Family doctors do not have the expertise or training needed to treat Type 1 Diabetes correctly. If they do treat it, they often use very outdated approaches they learned in medical school decades ago that will harm your health if you rely on them.
The reason that family doctors may confuse a Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis is that older people in general are likely to be somewhat insulin resistant, whether or not their pancreases are working. They may also be overweight. When a family doctor sees a middle aged, overweight patient with high blood sugars they assume that the patient has Type 2 diabetes and prescribe the drugs that are routinely given to people with that diagnosis.
But if you have sustained significant damage to your insulin-making pancreatic cells, you can get very sick, very fast using the treatments usually given people with Type 2 Diabetes. If you are suddenly running very high blood sugars--anything over 300 mg/dl--that do not come down to a normal level after trying the dietary changes described on our page, How to Lower Your Blood Sugar and by taking the drugs usually prescribed to people with Type 2 Diabetes, you must demand that your doctor order the tests that could tell him that you actually have a form of Type 1 Diabetes, which must be treated with insulin. You do not want to be one of the COVID-19 survivors who ends up in the ER in very bad shape with ketoacidosis. At a minimum, you want the family doctor to order a C-peptide test. This is a crude test that can tell if you are secreting insulin. But if at all possible, with a sudden, post-COVID-19 diabetes diagnosis and resistant high blood sugars you need a speedy referral to an Endocrinologist.
If your blood sugar is steadily rising despite dietary changes and diabetes oral drugs and you ignore it out of a fear of insulin treatment you can die from Ketoacidosis.
Fortunately, with the correct diagnosis and the most modern treatments for Type 1 Diabetes you can live a long and healthy life. Insulin injections do not hurt. Insulin, prescribed properly, works very well. There is a wonderful new, relatively cheap technology that lets you observe your blood sugars in real time that makes controlling with insulin much safer and easier.
If You Were Put on Dexamethasone That May Have Pushed Your Blood Sugar into the Diabetes Zone
Dexamethasone is a steroid drug which has been found to help hospitalized patients with COVID-19. It is a corticosteroid, a class of drugs that is notorious for raising blood sugars. Over the years I have heard from several people whose blood sugar had been only slightly elevated until they were put on a course of steroids. I had the same experience myself: a course of Prednisone pushed up my blood sugars dramatically. They had been in the prediabetic range that doctors ignore up but after two weeks on Prednisone they shot up into the fully diabetic range and stayed there for more than a decade.
If your blood sugar worsened because of exposure to this steroid drug you can probably bring it down with dietary changes alone, or perhaps with diet and metformin. As long as you are still making insulin, you don't have to fear ketoacidosis--except if you are taking Invokana or Jardiance, two drugs that change how the kidneys excrete blood sugar. These drugs can cause dangerous ketoacidosis give people with classic Type 2 Diabetes who still make insulin.
Some people will find that high blood sugars due to exposure to corticosteriods come down with time on their own. Others do not.
If you suspect that dexamethasone has caused your blood sugar to worsen, there is a simple thing you can try that might be helpful. It is safe and inexpensive, so it is worth a try. Get yourself a bottle of Co-Enzyme Q10 at your local drug store. You only need a low dose. 50 milligrams will do. You don't want a higher dose as high doses can ramp up your immune system in unpleasant ways. The store brand from CVS or Walgreens is all you need.
Try taking one pill a day for a week and see if it makes any difference in your blood sugars. Co-Enzyme Q 10 improves the function of the mitochondria, which are the part of your cell that actually burns glucose. It can reverse blood sugar worsening caused by statin drugs, which also decrease the mitochondria's ability to burn glucose. Steroids apparently have an impact on the mitochondria too. Co-Enzyme Q10 made a huge difference in my blood sugars when I took it for something else. If it works, stop taking the Co-Enzyme Q10. Taking more isn't necessary and can cause your immune system to make intense overreactions to things like an insect bite or cause joint pain.
This isn't a magical cure for diabetes. Reports I have gotten from people with typical Type 2 make it clear that it does not make any difference in the blood sugar control of people whose high blood sugar is due to high insulin resistance or pancreatic failure. But if your treatment for COVID caused changes in how your mitochondria operate, a brief trial of Co-Enzyme Q10 might help.
You Can Still Live a Normal Healthy Life
Remember: Whatever the reason for your diabetes diagnosis, you can live a long and healthy life as long as you keep your blood sugars in the normal range. Your main tool for doing this is getting a handle on how much sugar and starch you eat. Many of us who pioneered eating in a way that keeps our blood sugar in the normal range have found, ironically, that as the years go by we are a lot healthier than many of our friends and relatives with "completely normal" health. Keeping blood sugar truly normal keeps the immune system active, it limits the development of heart disease, and may even help the body fight off cancers. I am in my 70s now and have seen quite a few friends die over the last five years. None of them were people I knew in the online diabetes community who were striving to maintain normal blood sugars!
So hang in there. Get those blood sugars down to normal levels using the dietary approach and safe diabetes drugs discussed on this site and enjoy renewed health and happiness!