Diabetes, COVID: Potential link being explored

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Reports of rising diabetes cases during the pandemic have scientists exploring if there could be a link with the coronavirus.

It’s clear that in people who already have diabetes, COVID-19 can worsen the condition and make them prone to severe virus complications.

But there are other possible connections.

Emerging evidence shows the virus can attack insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, a process that might trigger diabetes in susceptible people.

Rising cases might also reflect circumstances caused by pandemic restrictions, including delayed medical care or unhealthy eating habits and inactivity in people already at risk for diabetes.

When their 11-year-old son started losing weight and drinking lots of water, Tabitha and Bryan Balcitis chalked it up to a growth spurt and health-class advice to stay hydrated.

But crankiness and lethargy raised their concern, and tests showed his blood sugar levels were off the charts.

Just six months after a mild case of COVID-19, Nolan Balcitis was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and had all the classic symptoms.

The Crown Point, Indiana couple was floored. It didn’t run in the family, but autoimmune illness did and doctors said that could be a factor.

A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report looked at two large U.S. medical claims databases that included new diabetes cases from March 2020 through June 2021.

Diabetes was substantially more common in kids who’d had a COVID-19 infection.

The report didn’t distinguish between type 1 and type 2 diabetes, but said doctors and parents should be aware of the potential link.

As researchers in the United States and elsewhere investigate whether the connection is more than a coincidence, new patients like Nolan Balcitis are learning to adapt.