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COVID-19 diabetes advice from a doctor

We asked Prof. Joel Dave, one of SA’s top endocrinologists and one of our Panel of Experts, for some advice for people with diabetes during COVID-19. Here’s what he had to say…

diabetes advice during covid 19

As the country has eased the lockdown to level 4 I wanted to update you on what we currently know about diabetes and COVID-19.  Unfortunately, what we know is not based on robust scientific studies but essentially on descriptions of what has and is happening in other countries that have been hardest hit by this pandemic

Does diabetes increase the risk of getting COVID-19?

NO. There is no scientific evidence to show that people living with diabetes are at increased risk of getting infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.

Do people living with diabetes have a greater risk of complications from COVID-19?

YES.  Studies from around the world are showing that when a person with diabetes gets COVID-19 their risk of having complications does increase. They have a greater risk of requiring hospitalisation, intensive care and ventilation.

Does controlling your diabetes matter?

YES. Studies are beginning to show that people with diabetes who are admitted with COVID-19 and have well-controlled diabetes do clinically better than those with poorly-controlled diabetes

What are the other risk factors for complications in people who get COVID-19?

Many studies now show that people who are older than 65 years is a risk factor. So is obesity, hypertension, coronary artery disease (previous heart attacks or stents), cancer, smoking and lung disease. These all increase the risk of complications due to COVID-19.

Is there a difference between patients with Type 1 diabetes (T1DM) and those with Type 2 diabetes (T2DM)?

At the moment there is no clear data on this. People with diabetes are at greater risk than people without diabetes. The presence of the other risk factors mentioned above can also change the risk, whether you have T1DM or T2DM.

Can people with diabetes go back to work?

At this time, there are no evidence-based guidelines on whether people with diabetes can go to work.  It’s all about balancing the risk of infection vs. risk of losing a job vs. needing to earn an income. All of these are very important factors in our daily lives!  As much as possible, I would encourage you to isolate yourself at home and to work from home.    

When leaving your home please ensure that you are wearing a face mask, you practice meticulous hand hygiene and that you do not touch any part of your face. Also remember that social distancing is important – keep 1 to 2 metres away from other people when you are not at home.

If you develop any symptoms that suggest COVID-19 (fever, cough, shortness of breath, muscle aches and pains, loss of smell and/or taste, diarrhoea) then please contact your GP urgently to organise to be tested for COVID-19.

Remember, we are all in this together.

What you need to know about diabetes and coronavirus:

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

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Sweet Life is a registered NPO/PBO (220-984) with a single goal: to improve diabetes in South Africa. We are funded by sponsorships and donations from aligned companies and organisations who believe in our work. We only share information that we believe benefits our community. While some of this information is linked to specific brands, it is not an official endorsement of that brand. We believe in empowering people with diabetes to make the best decisions they can, to live a healthy, happy life with diabetes.