Diabetes and COVID-19 may have a bidirectional relationship, meaning they may affect each other. People with diabetes, especially unmanaged diabetes, have a higher risk of severe COVID-19. Also, COVID-19 may increase the risk of new or worsening diabetes.
People with diabetes make up a large share of those with severe COVID-19. According to the
Treating and attempting to prevent type 2 diabetes may therefore reduce the risk of severe COVID-19 illness. Similarly, reducing the risk of COVID-19 could lower the risk of developing diabetes.
This article will examine the relationship between diabetes and COVID-19 and detail ways to prevent both diseases.
All data and statistics are based on publicly available data at the time of publication. Some information may be out of date. Visit our coronavirus hub for the most recent information on the COVID-19 pandemic.
Overall, people with all forms of diabetes are more likely to have negative COVID-19 outcomes. This is because diabetes may weaken the immune system. It can also cause serious health conditions such as heart disease and kidney disease.
Type 1 diabetes
Type 1 diabetes, which doctors previously referred to as juvenile diabetes,
Emerging research suggests that COVID-19 may be a risk factor for type 1 diabetes in children. A 2022 population study found that children with a recent history of COVID-19 were more likely to subsequently have a type 1 diabetes diagnosis.
Type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is the
Many studies do not distinguish between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Both can cause high blood sugar, but type 2 diabetes tends to occur along with metabolic syndrome. Researchers are still unsure what role metabolic syndrome, as opposed to hyperglycemia alone, plays in COVID-19.
Pregnancy, diabetes, and COVID-19
Pregnancy increases insulin resistance, which may increase the risk of negative health outcomes in people with COVID-19. According to the CDC,
Like other types of diabetes, gestational diabetes may increase the risk of negative COVID-19 outcomes. According to a
Diabetes remission and COVID-19
Diabetes remission can mean a person’s blood glucose has remained below the diabetes range for at least 3 months. People in diabetes remission are less vulnerable to diabetes complications, especially when they experience remission early in the disease course.
This may also decrease the risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes. Research consistently finds that blood sugar management is a major factor, though not the only factor, in predicting negative outcomes in people with diabetes who develop COVID-19.
For example, in a 2021 review, researchers found that 94% of people with COVID-19 who developed mucormycosis, a dangerous fungal infection, had diabetes. Mucormycosis is a rare but serious COVID-19 complication. People with unmanaged diabetes made up 67% of those with this dangerous complication.
Research has not yet determined whether COVID-19 can cause diabetes, but several studies suggest that a person may have an increased risk of being diagnosed with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes after having COVID-19.
For example, in a
- damage to the pancreas from COVID-19
- the body’s stress response, including inflammation and a cytokine storm
- use of medications, such as corticosteroids, that increase the risk of diabetes
The link between long COVID and diabetes may also be bidirectional.
Diabetes, especially type 2 diabetes, may also be a symptom of long COVID or an effect of SARS-CoV-2 infection. The authors of a
People with diabetes
A person should discuss treatment options with their doctor. Some early interventions, such as
- antiviral treatments such as remdesivir and Paxlovid
- monoclonal antibody therapies
- interventions to manage diabetes symptoms, such as insulin or a change in the dosage of diabetes medications
People with diabetes and COVID-19 should not stop taking diabetes medication or change their dosage without consulting a doctor.
People with diabetes have a higher risk of COVID-19 complications. They should therefore choose to get a COVID-19 vaccine and remain up to date on all boosters. Most states prioritized people with diabetes for the vaccine.
There is no evidence that the vaccine harms people with diabetes, and the significant risks of COVID-19 outweigh any small side effects.
COVID-19 treatment is usually the same whether a person has diabetes or not. But people who have diabetes or other comorbidities
It is also important that people manage diabetes by taking diabetes medication, exercising, and eating a low glycemic index diet.
Corticosteroids such as dexamethasone
- staying home from work if they feel sick
- avoiding large crowds and unventilated spaces
- getting the COVID-19 vaccine and staying up to date on all other vaccines
- wearing a well-fitted mask over the mouth and nose in public, especially in high risk settings such as in large crowds
- washing the hands frequently
- avoiding direct contact with people who are ill or who have recently had COVID-19 exposure
- moving activities outdoors when possible
COVID-19 may complicate diabetes and potentially even cause new diabetes.
It is important that people with diabetes know they are at risk and seek prompt care to reduce their risk of complications. Continuing to take diabetes medication is especially important because unmanaged blood sugar is a major risk factor for severe COVID-19.
People who are concerned about COVID-19 or diabetes should contact a healthcare professional. Early intervention can often help prevent serious complications.