Diabetes & COVID-19

1399/06/05 - 16:33 / 94


What is Diabetes?


Diabetes is a disease that occurs when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high. Blood glucose is your main source of energy and comes from the food you eat. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps glucose from food get into your cells to be used for energy. Sometimes your body doesn’t make enough—or any—insulin or doesn’t use insulin well. Glucose then stays in your blood and doesn’t reach your cells.










Over time, having too much glucose in your blood can cause health problems. Although diabetes has no cure, you can take steps to manage your diabetes and stay healthy.

Sometimes people call diabetes “a touch of sugar” or “borderline diabetes.” These terms suggest that someone doesn’t really have diabetes or has a less serious case, but every case of diabetes is serious.


 different types of diabetes


The most common types of diabetes are type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes.



About 8 per cent of people with Diabetes in the UK have Type 1 diabetes. It’s got nothing to do with diet or lifestyle, it just happens. We're still not sure what causes it.

When you have Type 1 diabetes, your body attacks the cells in your pancreas that make insulin, so you can't produce any insulin at all.

And we all need insulin to live. It does an essential job. It allows the glucose in our blood to enter our cells and fuel our bodies.

When you have Type 1 diabetes, your body still breaks down the carbohydrate from food and drink and turns it into glucose (sugar). But when the glucose enters your bloodstream, there's no insulin to allow it into your body's cells. More and more glucose then builds up in your bloodstream.

Signs and symptoms of Type 1 diabetes

So what does this mean? Well, before diagnosis, your body tries to get rid of the glucose through your kidneys, and that makes you wee a lot. This is one of the main symptom of Diabetes.

These symptoms tend to come on quickly – over just a few days or weeks. Anyone who has these symptoms should see a doctor as soon as possible.

Managing Type 1 diabetes

If you’ve got Type 1 diabetes, you get insulin into your body by injecting it, or using aninsulin pump, which delivers a constant supply into you.

You’ll also need to cheek your blood glucose levels are not too low or too high by using a blood glucose testing device several times a day. When you start taking insulin, you’ll begin to feel better and your blood glucose levels will go down.

This is important because over a long period of time, high glucose levels in your blood can seriously damage you heart, your eyes, your feet and your kidneys. These are known as the complication of  Diabetes.

But with the right treatment and care, the long-term effects of diabetes and high glucose levels can be managed.







We all need insulin to live. It does an essential job. It allows the glucose in our blood to enter our cells and fuel our bodies. 

When you have type 2 diabetes, your body still breaks down carbohydrate from your food and drink and turns it into glucose. The pancreas then responds to this by releasing insulin. But because this insulin can’t work properly, your blood sugar levels keep rising. This means more insulin is released. 

For some people with type 2 diabetes this can eventually tire the pancreas out, meaning their body makes less and less insulin. This can lead to even higher blood sugar levels and mean you are at risk of hyperglycaemia.

Is type 2 diabetes serious?

Around 90% of people with diabetes in the UK have type 2. It is serious condition and can be lifelong. 

If left untreated, high sugar levels in your blood can seriously damage parts of your body, including your eyes, heart and feet. These are called the complications of diabetes. But with the right treatment and care, you can live well with type 2 diabetes and reduce your risk of developing them. 









Managing type 2 diabetes

Learning how to live with type 2 diabetes can be challenging, but we’ll help you to discover what works for you. Some people can manage it through healthier eating, being more active or losing weight. But eventually most people will need medication to bring their blood sugar down to their target level. 

Can type 2 diabetes be cured?

There is no cure for type 2 diabetes, but some people are able to put their diabetes into remission. This means that your blood sugar levels are healthy and you don’t need to take diabetes medication any more. Remission can be life-changing, but it’s not possible for everyone.

Treatments for type 2 diabetes

There are a number of different ways you can treat type 2 diabetes, such as making healthy lifestyle choices, using insulin or taking medication. Your healthcare team will help you to find the right treatment for you. This can reduce your risk of developing complications and help you to live well with diabetes. 

Signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes

 When you have type 2 diabetes your body can’t get enough glucose into your cells, so a common symptom is feeling very tired. There are also other symptoms to look out for. These include feeling thirsty,

going to the toilet a lot and losing weight without trying to. The symptoms of type 2 diabetes can develop more slowly than the symptoms of type 1 diabetes, making the condition harder to spot. That’s why a lot of people don’t get any symptoms, or don’t notice them. 

Some people also don’t think the symptoms are important, so don’t ask for help. This means some people can live for up to 10 years with type 2 diabetes before being diagnosed. 

Risk factors of type 2 diabetes

There are several factors that can affect your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Because the symptoms of type 2 diabetes are not always obvious, it’s really important to be aware of these risk factors. They can include: 

  • your age
  • if you have a parent, brother, sister or child with diabetes
  • your ethnicity
  • high blood pressure 
  • being overweight 

Newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes

Knowing where to get started following a type 2 diagnosis can be a challenge. You may feel overwhelmed, but it’s important to know there isn’t a one-size fits all approach to managing the condition. 


Gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes develops in some women when they are pregnant. Most of the time, this type of diabetes goes away after the baby is born. However, if you’ve had gestational diabetes, you have a greater chance of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. Sometimes diabetes diagnosed during pregnancy is actually type 2 diabetes.

Other types of diabetes

Less common types include monogenic diabetes, which is an inherited form of diabetes, and cystic fibrosis-related diabetes External link




How common is diabetes?


More than 1 in 4 of them didn’t know they had the disease. Diabetes affects 1 in 4 people over the age of 65. About 90-95 percent of cases in adults are type 2 diabetes What health problems can people with diabetes develop?

Over time, high blood glucose leads to problems such as


· heart disease

· stroke

· kidney disease

· eye problems

· dental disease

· nerve damage

· foot problems

If you have diabetes – regardless of what type you have – you are no more likely to catch coronavirus than anyone else.




And the majority of people who do get coronavirus – whether they have diabetes or not – will have mild symptoms and don’t need to go into hospital. Speak to your healthcare team if you’re worried or have questions about shielding, or call our helpline team to talk things through.

However everyone with diabetes, including those with type 1, type 2, gestational and other types, is vulnerable to developing a severe illness if they do get coronavirus, but the way it affects you can vary from person to person.

 being ill can make your blood sugar go all over the place. Your body tries to fight the illness by releasing stored glucose (sugar) into your blood stream to give you energy. But your body can’t produce enough or any insulin to cope with this, so your blood sugars rise.

Your body is working overtime to fight the illness, making it harder to manage your diabetes. This means you’re more at risk of having serious blood sugar highs and lows, potentially leading to DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis) or HHS (hyperosmolar hyperglycaemic state). 

For most people, coronavirus is a mild illness, but some people develop a more serious form of the virus and sadly could die. Research shows us that there are certain risk factors that make you more at risk, like being from a Black, Asian, minority ethnic group, increased age, a BMI over 30, a history of high HbA1c, or complications such as heart failure or kidney disease. There are some risk factors that you can't change, but others where you can reduce your risk.


How to reduce your risk of getting coronavirus


If you have diabetes and you're planning on inviting friends or family into your home, speak to them about whether they have had coronavirus symptoms. However mild these symptoms are, they shouldn't be visiting.

Data from NHS England in May showed us that, for those who become so unwell with coronavirus that they need to go to hospital, the risk of dying is higher for people living with diabetes than people without the condition. Most deaths have been in the elderly with very few under the age of 40 and none in children.

This study only looked at the number of people who have died in hospital as a result of coronavirus. It doesn’t include information on the many thousands who have recovered at home or who have been successfully discharged from hospital.









. Shielding updates

Shielding was a way of protecting 'clinically extremely vulnerable' people who are at a very high risk of severe illness and needing to go to hospital if they catch coronavirus. It meant staying at home almost all of the time, with no face-to-face contact. People with diabetes are not in the clinically extremely vulnerable group (shielding group) – they are in the 'clinically vulnerable group' – so having diabetes didn't automatically mean you needed to shield. Although there may be some people with diabetes who needed to shield based on other conditions, for example those with cystic fibrosis-related diabetes.

But lockdown restrictions are now easing up and clinically extremely vulnerable people won't be advised to shield.

This means clinical extremely vulnerable can go out more and to the shops, but it's still really important to be careful with social distancing and handwashing as usual. If you're already getting priority supermarket delivery slots, you'll still be able to get these. Remember there are lots of volunteer groups to support you with food and supplies if you need it.



Neshat Khosravi - Microbiologist




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