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1 in 10 People with COVID and Diabetes Die Within Seven Days of Hospital Admission

By Karena Yan

The first study of people with diabetes and COVID-19 reveals troubling statistics and risk factors

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, experts have warned that people with diabetes are at greater risk of developing more severe forms of COVID-19. A new study, published in the journal Diabetologia in late May, is the first to analyze hospitalized people with COVID and diabetes.

The research looked at 1,317 people with diabetes in hospitals in France (89% with type 2 diabetes). The study revealed that one in ten people with diabetes die of coronavirus within the first seven days of being admitted. Furthermore, one in five people with diabetes are intubated and mechanically ventilated for coronavirus within the same length of time.

While blood sugar management did not affect COVID-19 outcomes in this study, several factors were associated with higher rates of needing mechanical ventilation and of death: the presence of diabetes complications, older age, and higher BMI. The presence of microvascular (such as eye or kidney) or macrovascular (such as heart or leg) complications doubled the risk of death by day seven of hospital admission, and people older than 75 years old were more than fourteen times more likely to die than people younger than 55. Thus, while having diabetes alone is not a risk factor for COVID-19, many people with diabetes are more likely to have additional health complications that are associated with more severe forms of COVID-19.

Researchers also found that men were more likely to be affected: two-thirds of the people with diabetes hospitalized for COVID-19 in the study were male. This finding is similar to reports from other countries – for example, in Lombardy, Italy, men made up 82 percent of nearly 1,600 patients in intensive care units (ICUs) between February 20 and March 18 of this year.

The researchers noted that medications for modifying blood sugar, such as insulin, are not a risk factor for severe forms of COVID-19 and ought to be continued for people with diabetes.

The study suggests that people with diabetes should be aware of their increased risk for poor COVID-19 outcomes. More important, healthcare professionals, insurers, and the medical community as a whole should address these risk factors, including by increasing diabetes prevention efforts and improving time in range to decrease the risk of developing health complications. Moreover, these results highlight the importance of making COVID-19 testing and treatment widely available and accessible to the general public, and to people with diabetes in particular.

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