COVID & Diabetes

People with diabetes are not more likely to get COVID-19 than the general population.

The problem people with diabetes face is primarily a problem of worse outcomes, not a greater chance of contracting the virus. In China, where most cases have occurred so far, people with diabetes had much higher rates of serious complications and death than people without diabetes—and generally we believe that the more health conditions someone has (for example, diabetes and heart disease), the higher their chance of getting serious complications from COVID-19. While the death toll is likely to rise as the virus spreads, we expect the death rate—the number of people who die from the virus as a percentage of the total number of people who contract the virus—to go down as we get better at detecting and treating this specific virus.

People with diabetes do face a higher chance of experiencing serious complications from COVID-19.

In general, people with diabetes are more likely to experience severe symptoms and complications when infected with a virus.If diabetes is well-managed, the risk of getting severely sick from COVID-19 is about the same as the general population.

When people with diabetes do not manage their diabetes well and experience fluctuating blood sugars, they are generally at risk for a number of diabetes-related complications. Having heart disease or other complications in addition to diabetes could worsen the chance of getting seriously ill from COVID-19, like other viral infections, because your body’s ability to fight off an infection is compromised.

Viral infections can also increase inflammation, or internal swelling, in people with diabetes. This is also caused by above-target blood sugars, and both could contribute to more severe complications.

When sick with a viral infection, people with diabetes do face an increased risk of DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis), commonly experienced by people with type 1 diabetes. DKA can make it challenging to manage your fluid intake and electrolyte levels—which is important in managing sepsis. Sepsis and septic shock are some of the more serious complications that some people with COVID-19 have experienced.