How Does COVID-19 Affect People with Diabetes?

Alexie Collin

Chris Riley

Chris Riley

Chris is the Founder and CEO of USA Rx. Chris has led the USA Rx team to continue to push for further transparency and more savings options in the U.S. prescription marketplace for the Diabetes community. With COVID-19 transforming and normalizing how consumers view and use digital health, Chris led the transformation of the USA Rx brand to a digital health marketplace.

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Last Updated on September 24, 2023

Around 25% of people who were admitted to the hospital with severe COVID-19 infections had diabetes. Moreover, a report from StatNews revealed that 30% of deaths from the pandemic were also caused by complications from diabetes. These numbers are especially staggering if you consider that only 10% of the US population suffers from the condition. This makes vaccination, prevention, treatment, and overall awareness among patients with diabetes and their caretakers all the more important.

COVID-19 Complication Risks in Diabetes

Although there is not enough data to prove whether people with diabetes have higher chances of catching COVID-19, it is a comorbidity that can lead to more serious complications upon contraction. Additionally, diabetics that also suffer from other existing health issues such as heart or lung diseases, obesity, as well as old age, are at higher risk.

A study on the COVID-19’s effects on diabetics from US Pharmacist points out that the following conditions in diabetics increase chances of complications: higher affinity cellular binding and efficient virus entry, decreased viral clearance, diminished T-cell function, increased susceptibility to hyperinflammation and cytokine storm, and the presence of cardiovascular disease. To sum it up, the immune system is compromised, making it more difficult to fight off the virus, and the virus may thrive in an environment of elevated levels of blood glucose.

COVID-19 complications could lead to diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). This results from high levels of acids called ketones building up in your blood. There is also a possibility of developing a body-wide response called sepsis. Handling sepsis requires intensive management of bodily fluid and electrolyte levels, which is hard to control with DKA.

Although both types of diabetes patients can both suffer from the same complications, people with type 1 or gestational diabetes might be at an increased risk, as DKA is more commonly experienced by type 1 patients. Additionally, a study from The Lancet on associations of type 1 and 2 diabetes with COVID-19 mortality revealed that the risk of developing pneumonia was reported to be higher than those with type 2.

It has also been found that viral infections such as COVID-19 can also increase inflammation, or internal swelling, in people with diabetes. This can be due to above-target blood sugars. This inflammation could contribute to more severe complications.

In the event you are considering applying for life insurance, prepare to delay the application process. Many life insurance companies will postpone for 60 to 90 days after being diagnosed with Covid 19.  Certain life insurance carriers may even postpone you for up to a year.  Underwriters are extremely cautious given the current Covid Delta Variant environment here in the United States.

COVID-19 Symptoms

Symptoms for COVID-19 are generally the same among people with and without diabetes. These are usually exhibited anytime between 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. The health and wellness guides on SymptomFind cover several COVID-19-related topics, and in one of their articles it states that the following may be indications of COVID-19:

• Fever or chills
• Cough or sore throat
• Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
• Fatigue or body aches
• Loss of taste and smell
• Congestion or runny nose
• Nausea or vomiting
• Diarrhea

Treatment and Recovery

For milder cases, you might be told to stay at home. Follow your doctor’s advice first and foremost, and be on top of your symptoms.

Managing COVID-19 at home can be tricky with diabetes. Check your blood sugar more often, as the virus can reduce your appetite, and high doses of aspirin or ibuprofen can subsequently affect your levels. Drink plenty of fluids and keep over-the-counter medications close by to help handle your fever or cough. Get immediate medical help if you notice the following:

• Moderate or large ketones
• DKA symptoms such as tiredness, weakness, vomiting, belly pain
• Heightened shortness of breath
• Inability to wake or stay awake
• Bluish lips or face

There are a multitude of other treatments and medications to treat more serious cases of COVID-19, such as remedy sivir, lopinavir plus ritonavir, anakinra, as well as convalescent plasma therapy. Treatment is still possible alongside insulin infusions, and hospital patients will most likely receive varying degrees of insulin requirements aligned with their medications.

Thankfully, people younger than 40 years with either type of diabetes are at quite a low risk of in-hospital death with COVID-19. With mild cases, patients can completely recover in two weeks on an average, while more life-threatening cases can extend up to three to six weeks.


People with comorbidities take priority when it comes to vaccination, so it is highly advisable to get your shot as soon as possible. Still, general COVD-19 prevention measures are still necessary. Always wear masks when in public, and avoid interacting with large crowds. Always wash your hands with soap and water, and do not meet with people who might have been exposed.

It is also important for diabetes patients to maintain a balanced diet to keep blood glucose levels stable and help boost their immune system. Having daily exercises at home is also great to maintain physical activity.

Various Struggles Diabetes Patients Face

Although steps to prevent contracting COVID-19 among diabetics seem simple enough, it hasn’t actually been easy. Due to the economic disruption, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) noted that nearly one in five people in the US had to choose between buying food or buying diabetes medication and supplies during the pandemic. The hike in the prices of insulin in 2021 also adds to the monetary struggles patients are facing. An article by Patrick Bailey also discussed how the pandemic can prompt people to turn to drugs or alcohol, which can further weaken people with diabetes.

This is why the ADA continues to advocate for diabetes patients to have accessible healthy food options and affordable medication. Institutions are also working to expand medical knowledge on COVID-19 and diabetes, especially in the area of vaccine efficacy and differences in immune function.

For more in-depth information on diabetes and COVID-19, visit our Diabetes Life Solutions website.

Alexie Collin, is a dedicated yogi, having practiced various forms of yoga and Tai-Chi for over 10 years. Her love for the ancient practice has taken her to India and Sri Lanka where she learned under the tutelage of local masters.

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