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COVID-19 may cause onset of diabetes; LSU Health doctor says avoid getting the virus in the first place

Published: Feb. 4, 2021 at 7:11 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Diabetes is already well-known for its ability to sicken and kill and now doctors think COVID-19 may cause diabetes in people who had no history of the disease and an LSU Health New Orleans doctor says that underscores the need to avoid getting the virus in the first place.

Dr. Benjamin Springgate is LSU Health New Orleans Chief of Community and Population Medicine.

“It certainly is an unfortunate development in our fight against the coronavirus that is causing COVID-19,” said Springgate.

Average citizens are surprised to learn the virus may leave some patients with diabetes.

“It certainly is an unfortunate development in our fight against the coronavirus that is causing COVID-19,” said Springgate.

“It’s causing a lot of havoc,” said Ashton Thompson. “Everybody dying every day and it seems like people don’t want to listen and continue to where their mask.”

Springgate said some other viruses have been linked to the onset of diabetes.

“One of the things that we know from other kinds of viruses that there are certain viruses such as enteroviruses which can lead to for example the common cold which in some people can be associated with the development of new-onset diabetes, so this may be following that pathway,” Springgate stated.

Thompson thinks the diabetes/COVID-19 connection is concerning.

“That’s very serious because you have people dying every day from diabetes and then now it’s COVID it’s ten times as worse,” he said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 34 million people in the United States have diabetes but 1 in 4 do not know they have the disease. Also, the agency says 1 and 3 adults are pre-diabetic.

In Louisiana, CDC statistics say over 500,000 people are known to have diabetes.

“Across the United States and in Louisiana and the Greater New Orleans area specifically many, many people have diabetes, that number has been increasing over time. Oftentimes that’s associated with elevated weight for example or inactivity or increasing age but not always, sometimes it can be associated with other factors,” said Springgate.

While he does not believe most people who get or have had the coronavirus will develop diabetes, he said those who do should take it seriously.

“We don’t expect that this is going to be, you know, the majority of patients by any stretch of the imagination but certainly other people already are having other types of long-term consequences from their coronavirus or COVID-19 infections and this apparently is one of them that’s going to affect a minority of people but is certainly a severe outcome,” said Springgate.

It is well-established that diabetes that is not controlled can lead to blindness and the need to remove limbs. And uncontrolled diabetes can lead to things like blindness and even amputation of limbs.

Springgate said, “Diabetes leads to increased death, it leads to blindness, kidney failure, amputations, a variety of really awful outcomes.”

And because of the many unknowns associated with having the virus, Dr. Springgate said it is best not to catch it.

“That’s absolutely right, so the things we know work are maintaining your distance from others, not socializing with people outside of your home, continuing to wear a mask, sometimes two masks nowadays given the new variants can be very helpful,” said Springgate.

He said if you think you have diabetes see a doctor to have a blood test.

“When people have new-onset diabetes frequently, they begin to lose weight, some people will have significant fatigue, they lose their appetite, they urinate very frequently,” said Springgate.

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