Over the course of the pandemic, scientists have learned that the coronavirus can lead to a wide range of ongoing health problems — including diabetes, according to a new study.
New research published in the journal BMC Medicine this month is shedding light on how COVID-19 can also put a person at greater risk of developing diabetes — both type 1 and type 2 — after an infection. The study is a meta-analysis, which means that it combined and analyzed data from other studies on the same topic.
Nine studies, which included nearly 40 million participants, were included in the analysis. Six of the studies were conducted in the United States, with another two in England and one in Germany. Seven of the studies included only adults, one included only adolescents and one had no age restrictions. Overall, more than 4 million of the participants had contracted COVID-19 and more than 34 million in the control group had not. Altogether, following a COVID-19 infection, the incidence of developing diabetes was roughly 15 out of 1,000 people in a given year.
“To our knowledge, this is the largest and most wide-ranging analysis of this kind to date,” the researchers noted in the study.
A consistent increased risk of diabetes after COVID-19 was observed across all age groups, and was highest in the first three months after an infection, according to the research. Patients with severe COVID-19 had a higher risk of diabetes after an infection, but even those with a mild COVID-19 infection were at increased risk, the study found.
According to the study, “similar results have been reported in patients infected with other viruses, with an increased incidence of diabetes, compared with those not infected.”
Diabetes, a chronic health condition that affects how the body turns food into energy, is the seventh most common cause of death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are three main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes, which can occur during pregnancy.
According to the American Diabetes Association, in general, people with diabetes are at increased risk for developing more severe symptoms and complications when infected with any virus, including COVID-19. But the new research now highlights how important it is for doctors treating COVID-19 patients to monitor them closely for diabetes after their recovery.
“This reinforces the need for clinicians to pay attention to patients’ glucose metabolism in the post-acute phase of COVID-19,” the researchers said.