COVID-19 might be triggering new-onset diabetes, researchers say

New-onset diabetes could be another complication added to the list of health problems associated with COVID-19, The Washington Post reported Feb. 1. 

Mihail Zilbermint, MD, a diabetes specialist at Bethesda, Md.-based Suburban Hospital, told the Post that before the pandemic, the hospital managed about 18 patients per day and is now caring for as many as 30. 

"We've definitely seen an uptick in patients who are newly diagnosed," Dr. Zilbermint said, adding that many of the patients had no diabetes history. While some hospitalized COVID-19 patients developed elevated blood sugar that subsided by the time they were discharged, others left with diabetes. 

The Post cited a number of studies indicating a possible link between diabetes and COVID-19, including a study from late November that reported as many as 14.4 percent of patients hospitalized with severe COVID-19 developed diabetes. 

Some patients who've developed Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes during or after a COVID-19 infection had existing risk factors such as obesity, while others had no prior health concerns. 

Scientists are unsure whether a COVID-19 infection can trigger existing diabetes symptoms that are already developing, or whether the infection itself can cause them. Among other unanswered questions include whether newly diagnosed diabetes following a COVID-19 infection is temporary or permanent. 

In London, researchers are evaluating whether COVID-19 has spurred an entirely new type of diabetes that evolves differently than traditional forms after reports of cases where patients don't fit the usual profile of existing types of diabetes, according to the Post. 

While researchers have observed an association between viral infections such as SARS and the onset of diabetes, they're not sure what the reasoning is, according to the Post. Now, researchers are diving into whether viral infections may damage beta cells, which are responsible for producing insulin. 


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