There may be a link between coronavirus deaths and diabetes - here’s what doctors say

This is what you need to know if you're diabetic (Photo: Shutterstock)This is what you need to know if you're diabetic (Photo: Shutterstock)
This is what you need to know if you're diabetic (Photo: Shutterstock)

NHS England figures have revealed that one in four people who have died in hospital with Covid-19 also had diabetes.

This is what you need to know if you have diabetes, and how to keep yourself safe as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

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What did the data from NHS England reveal?

The data from NHS England showed that of the 22,332 people who died in hospital between the dates of 31 March and 12 May, 5,873 were previously diagnosed with either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.

That means 25 per cent of people who passed away in hospital due to Covid-19 had diabetes.

The breakdown did not differentiate between the numbers of those diagnosed with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.

Professor Partha Kar, the National Speciality Advisor on the condition, said, “It is clear that people with diabetes are more at risk of dying from Covid-19.

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“More detailed analysis is currently underway to understand the link between the two, although initial findings indicate that the threat in people under 40 continues to be very low.”

Why does having diabetes put people at higher risk?

Speaking to The Guardian, emeritus professor infectious diseases at Brighton and Sussex medical school, Jon Cohen, said, “Patients with diabetes often have complications involving the heart, but also the kidneys, and in the same way any extra strain on the body from the infection can cause secondary problems in those organs.

“Furthermore, we know that diabetics’ immune systems are not quite as good at fighting infections as non-diabetics.”

Diabetes UK said, “People with diabetes are particularly vulnerable to becoming seriously ill with coronavirus because the virus can cause difficulties managing your diabetes, potentially leading to diabetic ketoacidosis.”

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Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) happens when there is a severe lack of insulin in the body - the body can’t use sugar for energy and starts to use fat instead.

When this happens, chemicals called ketones are released, and if this goes unchecked, the ketones can build up and make your blood more acidic.

Signs and symptoms of DKA include:

  • High blood sugar levels
  • Being very thirsty
  • Needing to pee more often
  • Feeling tired and sleepy
  • Confusion
  • Blurred vision
  • Stomach pain
  • Feeling or being sick
  • Sweet or fruity smelling breath (like nail polish remover or pear drop sweets)
  • Passing out

Who else is vulnerable to coronavirus?

The government released a list of people who are considered “clinically extremely vulnerable”.

This list includes:

  • Solid organ transplant recipients
  • People with specific cancers
  • People with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary (COPD)
  • Those with rare diseases that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as SCID, homozygous sickle cell)
  • People on immunosuppressive therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection
  • Women who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired