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World|health|March 29, 2022 / 05:54 PM
Studies link Covid-19 infection with increased risk of new diabetes diagnosis

AKIPRESS.COM - Over a year after recovering from a Covid-19 infection, Jennifer Hobbs is adjusting to her new normal: brain fog, joint pain, elevated liver enzymes and, now, type 2 diabetes. Hobbs had prediabetes before she got Covid-19, but her blood sugar levels were under control, and she didn't need any treatment. Recently, that changed.

"I take my blood sugar [level] every morning, and even with two different types of medication, it's all over the place," said Hobbs, 36. The new diabetes diagnosis has both Hobbs and her primary care provider wondering if the coronavirus has played a role.

Two years into the pandemic, scientists and physicians are shifting their attention to the long-term consequences of a Covid-19 infection, termed "long Covid." Recent studies add diabetes to the list of possible long Covid outcomes.

Experts have known that people with diabetes are at higher risk of severe Covid-19 infection, but now, a new connection is unraveling -- one in which a Covid-19 infection may lead to a higher risk for diabetes.

One study published this month looked at people who had mild Covid-19 infections in Germany and found that they were 28% more likely to have a new diagnosis of type 2 diabetes compared with people who were never infected.

A study in the United States similarly found an increased incidence rate of diabetes in people who had recovered from Covid-19: a 40% increase in risk at least a year after infection. The researchers estimate that about 2 out of every 100 people who are infected with Covid-19 will have a new diagnosis of diabetes.

This US-based study, published last week in the medical journal The Lancet, also found that even among people who had low to no risk factors for diabetes, Covid-19 infection led to a 38% increased risk of diabetes afterward.

The more severe someone's coronavirus infection was, the higher their risk of diabetes. For people who were treated in the ICU, the risk of diabetes jumped 276%. This connection could be related to the steroids that some patients get while receiving acute care in a hospital setting, which can increase blood sugar levels.

"This is not diabetes for a month or two after recovery. This is for a year out, and it's happening certainly in people who are not hospitalized," said lead researcher Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, chief of research and development at the VA St. Louis Health Care System and a clinical epidemiologist at Washington University in St. Louis.

That study used the national databases for the US Department of Veterans Affairs to follow over 180,000 people after they got Covid-19. The research team compared this group's outcomes to outcomes for a control group of over 4 million people from before the pandemic, along with another group of over 4 million people during the pandemic who did not get Covid-19.

In kids, the overall risk of newly diagnosed diabetes is even worse. A report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published in January found that children were over 2½ times as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes after a Covid-19 infection than those who were never infected over a month after infection, CNN reports.

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