BENGALURU: Health experts and virologists warn that a diabetes epidemic is set to sweep the country soon, if there is no plan on meticulously eradicating Covid- 19. They say that so far, Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes were mostly due to overnutrition and sedentary lifestyle, but now, several studies have shown that patients hospitalised with Covid-19 are newly diagnosed with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. It’s a trend medical experts are watching closely.
“It is known that Covid has the ability to worsen existing diabetes, but we are seeing that the virus is also triggering newonset diabetes,” said renowned virologist Dr John Jacob, Christian Medical College, Vellore. He said the virus damages certain cells — known as beta cells — in the pancreas. They are found within another kind of cell, known as islet cell. The destruction of beta cells prevents the body from making insulin, triggering hyperglycemia.
In this case, as the body needs glucose as energy (but can’t use it), it turns to ketones — chemicals the liver makes when there is isn’t enough insulin for energy. The use of ketones signals the production of acids, which can also lead to a condition called diabetic keto acidosis, a potentially- fatal condition, he explained. In Karnataka, Dr Abhay Gundugurthi, consultant endocrinologist at Sagar Centre for Diabetes, said, “I’ve been seeing cases where many patients, due to Covid medicines, have shown diabetes. Interestingly, in some of them it has also reversed 8 to 10 weeks after recovery.”
A senior endocrinologist in Victoria Hospital said, “Follow-up patients returning to hospital are few. However, we see that the ones who come in have onset of diabetes. We are monitoring such patients closely to see if the condition reverses or is permanent. Right now, it’s too early to say anything,” the doctor explained. However, endocrinologists and physicians warn that people with prediabetes, who are infected with Covid-19, should be aware of the general symptoms of diabetes, like increase in urination, thirst and appetite.
Dr C Nagaraj, Director of Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases, said they have seen patients with pre-diabetes, in whom stress has affected the metabolic system, leading to diabetes. They would have managed only with diet control, but post- Covid, there have been instances where insulin is needed to keep their diabetes under control. Experts warn that this new epidemic is around the corner as the virus is changing the metabolic syndrome.