I am a mom of two awesome children who teach me more than I ever thought possible. I love writing, exercise, movies, and LGBT advocacy.
Raising Awareness Is The First Step
Diabetes And COVID-19
As we have come to learn over the last several months dealing with COVID-19, those who are elderly and those who are immunocompromised are typically more vulnerable to the effects of the virus than the population at large. This would include those with type 1 diabetes, which is classed as an autoimmune disease.
With Type 1 diabetes, your pancreas does not work the way a healthy person's does. That is, it does not produce insulin, and in fact, the immune system attacks the pancreas and destroys the cells that create insulin. It is possible to acquire other autoimmune conditions when you have diabetes, but these aren't generally caused by the diabetes itself.
Here's the challenge: when you have diabetes and are sick, management of the disease becomes more challenging because of probably changed eating habits. Naturally, we tend not to eat as well as we likely should when we're sick, and given management of personal glucose levels is critical if you have diabetes, these levels go somewhat sideways if you are sick. For whatever reason, those with autoimmune conditions are more prone to acquiring COVID-19, and when you are sick, the management of diabetes becomes more difficult.
Type 1 diabetes is also typically an expensive condition to manage, given you're looking at regular blood sugar testing. That entails glucometers, testing strips, and a pump to maintain a basal insulin level. If you aren't on a pump, you might be using regular insulin injections to manage your insulin and blood sugar levels. This all can cost around $4,900 Canadian dollars annually, according to Diabetes Canada, and the expenses are such that nearly a quarter of Canadians forego their treatment.
What we know is that it's recommended that if someone who has diabetes believes they've contracted COVID-19, they have enough medications for one or two weeks if they can't make it to the pharmacy to refill their prescriptions, to have enough device supplies for things like their glucometer or their pump, and to ensure all medical information is handy. Certainly, monitoring the diabetes in the event of any sort of viral infection at all is important, to ensure that blood sugar levels are within normal levels.
There are other complications that can come with diabetes that might not quite be managed as a result of illness. If diabetes is poorly managed, whether as a result of illness or lack of medication, confusion or even delirium could result. There is a greater risk of cardiovascular conditions, kidney disorders, and other medical complications.
With the medical issues that already exist surrounding COVID-19, it becomes even more important for those with diabetes take appropriate precautions to manage their symptoms and their risk for COVID-19. That can take a toll walking that tightrope; you're already trying to manage a disease that might be unpredictable, depending on your stage of life (sometimes the hormone surges that teens get can wreak havoc on a diabetic person's blood sugar levels), and there might be issues with your mental health as a result.
That's why it's so important that in the management of diabetes, the person with diabetes has a support system in place to ensure that they continue to be healthy and their diabetes is appropriately cared for. It's important - as it is for anyone else in the battle against COVID-19 - to ensure the person with diabetes is taking appropriate precautions and, like the rest of us, feeling safe and sane when going through their daily lives during this pandemic.
While COVID-19 and any illness can play a significant role in the management of diabetes, it is important to be aware that those with diabetes are potentially coping with greater mental health strain as a result of this pandemic. Diabetics understand, probably better than anyone else, just how cautious they need to be because of the risks COVID-19 can pose to their overall health because of its impact on things like their blood sugar levels, among other issues. Diabetes can, if not properly managed, cause negative impacts on virtually every body system, and a virus, whether it's the flu, the common cold or COVID-19, can send a person living with diabetes into a tailspin.
That's why, in this year's Diabetes Awareness Month, I encourage you to be supportive of those living with diabetes in their lives. There's a lot more going on than you might be aware of.