COVID-19 survivors are at an increased risk of being newly diagnosed with diabetes up to a year after recovery, a new study has found.
Researchers from the VA Saint Louis Health Care System found that people who recovered from COVID were 40% more likely to develop a new case of diabetes compared to a control group.
This translates to 1 in 100 people at increased risk of developing diabetes after a COVID-19 infection. As of Monday, 79.5 million people have been infected with COVID-19 in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which means it could result in 795,000 new diabetes diagnoses.
“It’s hard for me to swallow,” Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, head of research and development at the VA Saint Louis Health Care System and lead author of the study, told ABC News. “COVID-19 isn’t just about the acute effects. It’s going to leave a lot of people with long-term health consequences that they’ll have to deal with all their lives and that’s shocking. It’s unsettling to accept.”
For the study, published Monday in the journal Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, the team looked at patient data from the US Department of Veterans Affairs between March 1, 2020 and September 30, 2021.
They compared more than 181,000 patients who had tested positive for COVID-19 to more than 4.1 million patients who were not infected during the same period. The data was also compared to an additional 4.28 million patients who were treated with VA in 2018 and 2019.
Al-Aly said the team initially thought the increased risk would only be seen in people with diabetes risk factors such as obesity, but the results showed the risk was evident across all groups.
“It was evident in blacks and whites; it was evident in young people and old people; it was evident in men and women; and, more importantly, it was also evident even in people who had no diabetes risk factors at the time at all,” he said.
He added that there are a few theories about how COVID increases the risk of diabetes, although none have been proven or disproven.
One theory is that COVID-19 leads to inflammation that can alter insulin secretion and sensitivity. Another is that COVID-19 causes disruptions in microbiome composition and function, which can lead to diabetes.
The findings add to a growing body of evidence that COVID-19 infection can have long-term health consequences.
Al-Aly said when most people think of lasting health effects post-COVID, they think of shortness of breath, difficulty concentrating and trouble sleeping.
But more and more studies have shown that COVID survivors can suffer from heart problems, kidney problems and, in this case, diabetes.
“Over the past year or so, we have started noticing in some patients that these [long-term] the manifestations are not just fatigue and brain fog, but people are getting new diabetes,” he said.
Of the patients who developed diabetes, more than 99% developed type 2 diabetes, which is the most common form of diabetes and occurs when cells become resistant to insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar,
Due to insulin resistance, the pancreas has to produce more insulin to try to get the cells to react, which leads to high blood sugar.
This is different from type 1 diabetes, which is usually diagnosed in children and adolescents, and occurs when the pancreas produces no insulin or produces very little insulin.
The new study is not the first to link COVID-19 infection to diabetes.
In a study published last week, researchers from the Leibniz Center for Diabetes Research at Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf, Germany, found a 28% increased risk of type 2 diabetes for those who had previously had the disease. COVID-19.
Al-Aly said the best way to reduce the risk of diabetes is for people to prevent themselves from getting COVID-19 in the first place through vaccination.
But for people who have already caught the virus, they should watch for the warning signs of diabetes such as excessive thirst and frequent urination.
“These are signs of diabetes, and we need you to get checked out, because catching that diabetes early and identifying it early and treating it, or nipping it in the bud, is always better than leaving it unattended. for years and suffer even worse or more serious health consequences,” Al-Aly said.