COVID-19 can prompt new-onset type 1 diabetes, research says

A new study suggests that individuals who have caught COVID-19 are at risk of being diagnosed with new-onset type 1 diabetes, which can cause life-threatening DKA and hyperosmolar hyperglycaemic state.

Researchers from the Primary Care Diabetes Society (PCDS) discovered that around 14 per cent of people who were hospitalised with the coronavirus were affected by new-onset type 1 diabetes.

The research reveals that fears have surfaced regarding the overlooked new-onset type 1 diabetes in children and young people who have contracted the virus.

The researchers believe that breathlessness due to acidosis in DKA could be incorrectly assumed to be a coronavirus symptom, causing late presentation and a higher risk of morbidity.

The PCDS said: “We continue to witness devastating consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, with so many people suffering illness, personal loss or socioeconomic effects, as well as the impact on NHS services. Although the vaccination programme offers hope, it remains important to highlight that people with diabetes are particularly affected.

“Significant knowledge and clinical expertise has been gained from the first wave, especially with regard to the consequences of COVID-19 and its treatment on people with or at risk of diabetes. This document provides an important update and recommendations for practice, with links to relevant resources.”

Following this research, the PCDS have recommended GPs to:

  • Keep an eye out for symptoms of new-onset type 1 diabetes, particularly in children and young people who are unwell.
  • Bear in mind the four Ts – Toilet, Thirsty, Tiredness, and Thinner.
  • Test urine for glucose and ketones, and perform a finger-prick glucose test. If the random point-of-care glucose is >11.0 mmol/L, the patient should immediately be referred.
  • Check capillary glucose and urinary ketone levels in people who are severely unwell with suspected COVID-19 or potential diabetes-related emergency.

View the full research study here.

Photo by alessandroguerriero

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