COVID-19: Questions about possible links to the increase in diabetes cases

In Alberta, doctors and nurses are working to understand the possible relationship between COVID-19 and diabetes.

At Siksika Health Services Clinic, Jacey Solway keeps an eye on her diabetics. These have emerged in greater numbers since the province announced easing health measures earlier this year.

“The last two years have been very difficult,” says the chronic disease management nurse. In particular, due to the pandemic, which has increased the pressure on hospitals, the clinic where she practices has not been able to provide her diabetics with the regular and continuous medical care they need.

Jacey Solway is now finding that some need more medication while others are simply trying to regain control of their illness. A situation the clinic is watching as closely as any possible surge in new diagnoses, she says.

Get in cases

Diabetes specialist and professor at the Cumming School of Medicine Doreen Rabi of the University of Calgary is also noting clear trends at her Calgary clinic, more than two years since the pandemic began.

We are seeing more and more new cases of diabetes at a time when we really need to step up treatment for people who already have diabetes. »

A quote from dr Doreen Rabi, endocrinologist

dr Doreen Rabi believes that the fact “that COVID-19 can potentially alter a person’s ability to produce insulin” is insufficient to explain why people who test positive for COVID-19 are at higher risk of diabetes.

Photo: Radio Canada / Jennifer Lee

dr Neeja Bakshi, a specialist in internal medicine in Edmonton, also sees an increase in patients with metabolic disorders, including newly diagnosed or worsening diabetes, as well as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Factors known to increase the risk of diabetes, including unemployment, poverty, food insecurity and isolation, have been of paramount importance during the pandemic. Added to this are postponements or delays in access to care. The combined effect of these factors likely plays a key role in the rise in cases, Doreen Rabi believes.

dr Neeja Bakshi notes that people often experience significant life changes when they test positive for COVID-19. In this context, she cites a decrease in physical activity and a change in diet.

Increased risk and mysterious cause

Other observations also concern specialists. according to dr Rabi, they found that patients who tested positive for COVID-19 had a higher risk of developing diabetes, as well as an increased risk of the disease getting worse.

dr In this context, Rabi cites an American study that examined the medical records of veterans. The study results showed that people who tested positive for COVID were 40% more likely to develop diabetes.

However, this field of research has many unknowns because it is very young. The mystery of the probable causes of this situation therefore remains intact.

“While COVID-19 can potentially alter a person’s ability to produce insulin, it’s probably not the primary cause of new diabetes,” says Dr. Rabi.

To better understand the relationship between COVID-19 and chronic diseases like diabetes, Dr. Bakshi now includes questions about SARS-CoV-2 infections in her patients’ medical profiling.

Edmonton-based internal medicine specialist Dr. Neeja Bakshi, notes an increase in the number of diabetics in the wake of COVID-19.

Photo: Radio Canada/CBC

In medicine, she explains, we always look at risk factors [comme par exemple] family history, lifestyle [du patient], genetic predisposition. Now I think we need to ask the patient if they had COVID-19 or not.

The road to understanding all the effects of COVID-19 seems long, because SARS-CoV-2 is an “inflammatory virus that affects many systems of the anatomy and many organs,” emphasizes Dr. Bakshi.

With files by Jennifer Lee

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