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Covid-19 can be life-threatening for diabetic patients

The new wave of COVID-19 infections has brought into focus the predicament facing individuals with uncontrolled, pre-existing health conditions, especially diabetes. This is a particularly high-risk group that is likely to suffer a severe infection or even death once they contract the virus. 

In Sri Lanka, approximately one in 10 adults suffer from diabetes. Across the world, a staggering 463 million adults have the disease. World Diabetes Day on 14 November 2020 sounded the alarm for support communities and healthcare advocates to rally round to create diabetes awareness and push for progress in the standards of care and the management of diabetic patients in the pandemic. 

It is also a time to consider diabetes prevention because sedentary, unhealthy and stressful ‘lockdown’ lifestyles can lead to diabetes.

Diabetic people are in double trouble

A recent 'Lancet' diabetes and endocrinology study of 61 million medical records in the UK revealed that 30 percent of COVID-19 deaths occurred in diabetic individuals. After accounting for factors such as demography and chronic medical conditions, the risk of mortality was shown to be approximately three times higher for Type 1 diabetes patients and almost twice as high for Type 2, compared to those without diabetes. 

These results can be attributed to two primary causes:

  • - A lifetime of poor glucose control inflicts considerable damage on the body, triggering strokes, heart attacks, kidney failure, eye disease, and limb amputation. Diabetes also weakens the linings of the blood vessels impeding the delivery of essential nutrients throughout the body. Inflammation, another by product, leaves the body ill-prepared for the onslaught of Covid-19. 

  • - Elevated blood glucose levels also encourage super-added bacterial complications caused by the viral infection. Related health conditions include obesity, hypertension, and heart disease, all of which aggravate complications during viral illnesses. 

While these problems are common to any infection facing diabetic patients, the ferocity of COVID-19 makes it a lethal combination. 

What can a diabetic patient do in the Covid-19 scenario?

Never before has keeping your diabetes under control been so important. In addition to strict adherence to general COVID-19 personal safety protocols, regular monitoring of glucose levels will help you to avoid complications caused by blood glucose fluctuations. 

Make sure you stay hydrated and have a good supply of prescribed diabetes medications on hand, along with healthy food to correct any blood glucose fluctuations. 

Sticking to a comfortable daily routine, maintaining an exercise programme even within the confines of your home, reducing excessive work, and having a good night’s sleep go a long way towards keeping you strong. 

How Covid-19 has disrupted a precious lifeline for diabetic patients

A WHO survey of non-communicable diseases across many countries revealed growing concern that those eligible for essential healthcare are not receiving appropriate treatment or have not had access to medicines during the pandemic. The problem worsens with the increase in severity of transmission.

Sri Lanka is currently in the cluster transmission phase and is heading towards community transmission. The wide distribution of first-line contacts, the threat to national healthcare services, and the disruption of routine and emergency care for diabetes patients worry physicians.

As healthcare providers, we are torn between the dilemma of not wanting to expose our patients to unnecessary hospital visits, and ensuring that all our patients have continued access to their healthcare team, as well as a steady supply of medicines and other diabetes-care products such as glucometer strips and insulin. 

Unfortunately, the delay in visiting their healthcare provider when the first signs of complications arise has resulted in hospitalisation for heart attacks or infections. Delays aggravate the condition.

The disruption to healthcare services has created a dilemma for patients and healthcare providers alike, especially when it comes to the care of patients with diabetes and other non-communicable diseases. In Sri Lanka, the Ministry of Health is currently providing a number of telemedicine services and avenues for home delivery of medicines so that diabetic patients can avoid crowds.

COVID-19: Diabetes Care at Healthy Life Clinic 

Healthy Life Clinic strictly adheres to COVID-19 operational health safety protocols established by the Ministry of Health (MOH), Epidemiology Unit. A patient who has a scheduled appointment will receive a telephone call from our clinic nurse who will then screen him or her to understand the nature of their illness. Any concerns that they have contracted COVID-19 or have been in contact with COVID-19 patients will be discussed over the phone with the physician who will ask for your detailed medical history. Every patient will be consulted either over the phone or in person and no one will be turned away.

See your specialist online: To help patients overcome commuting barriers or to overcome the fear of entering communal healthcare settings, Healthy Life Clinic’s team of experienced and reputable consultants conduct telehealth consultations via established, trusted telemedicine partners such as oDoc and Mydoctor.lk, e-chanelling audio/video consultation, or by a direct call to the clinic, to maintain continuity of care throughout the pandemic. 

Follow our online diabetes care and weight management programme that has proven to be effective even in the absence of a physical meeting and examination. 

Read up on diabetes: Our social media platforms and website are constantly updated to increase diabetes awareness. Visit our Health Hub Library to learn about the proper management and prevention of diabetes – particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Dr. Kayathri Periasamy, Consultant Physician MBBS (UK), MRCP (UK), Board Certified in Int. Medicine (USA). Founder of Healthy Life Clinic, Colombo 07.


Keep abreast of news about the pandemic at www.epid.gov.lk

Consult our doctors on ODOC and MyDoctor.lk, via telemedicine. For details, call us on 0773 511 511

For help, medical advice, or information, call us on 0773 511 511. 

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