Adults living with diabetes have a higher risk for a severe COVID-19 infection, and as more is being learned about the virus, there might be another relationship between the two, as emerging evidence shows that the virus may be leading to more diabetes diagnoses.
One person that was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in the thick of the pandemic is four-year-old Ataleigh Takacs.
She was diagnosed in September 2021.
“My heart absolutely broke for my child, our whole world changed. It’s been difficult but she does really well,” said Lea Takacs, Ataleigh’s mom.
Lea said the family has learned a lot about the autoimmune disease her daughter will live with for the rest of her life.
“Type 1 diabetes – it’s always changing so you always have to be learning as you go,” Lea said.
A lot has also been discovered about the relationship between Type 1 and 2 diabetes and COVID-19, which may go both ways.
Dr. Seema Nagpal from Diabetes Canada said it is well established that adults with diabetes have a higher risk for severe COVID-19.
“They’re more likely to develop pneumonia. They’re more likely to end up in hospital, and if they do end up in hospital, they’re more likely to experience severe complications and unfortunately die,” Nagpal said.
She said there is also a hypothesis about COVID-19 leading to diabetes diagnoses, with one reason being that many people who have Type 2 diabetes don’t know it.
“When people become infected with COVID, they access the health-care system and then also get a diagnosis of diabetes,” Nagpal said, noting it is an association and not a cause.
However, there are early suggestions COVID-19 may affect the cells in the pancreas that make insulin.
“We unfortunately just don’t have enough information to make that statement, but we certainly are well aware that these studies have been described as observations that are very concerning to the diabetes community and something that we are watching very closely,” Nagpal said.
The Takacs may never know what caused Ataleigh’s diabetes but will be watching for discoveries and programs to cover the cost of all the supplies needed to manage blood sugar.
“It’s an incredibly expensive disease,” Lea said.
Diabetes Canada said there are more than four million Canadians who live with diagnosed diabetes.
That number is expected to reach five million over the next decade.