People with diabetes have a life-line during this pandemic and can fight off coronavirus if their diabetes is well controlled and they manage their blood sugar levels, says Diabetes Management Resource Centre (DMRC). DMRC Founder Mr Duncun Motanya has expressed concerns as diabetic patients continue to live in a lot of fear due to rising reports linking their conditions with the severity of coronavirus infection.
“A lot has been said about this subject and there’s certainly some panic among people living with Diabetes Mellitus. While there’s some truth in this, it’s important to note that, it’s mainly uncontrolled diabetes that lowers the immunity of the patients with diabetes,” said Mr. Motanya.
International Diabetes Federation (IDF) data shows Kenya has a total of 552,400 adult patients with diabetes, 2.2 per cent prevalence from an adult population of over 25 million. It’s estimated that type 2 diabetes accounts for 90-95 per cent of reported cases in the country and globally.
According to DMRC, high blood sugar levels and a persistent state of inflammation are the main factors that make it difficult for people with diabetes to recover from COVID-19 and other illnesses.
“This happens because with prolonged periods of hyperglycaemia (high levels of sugar in the blood), the white blood cells that produce immunoglobulin get damaged by the excess glucose and fail to multiply adequately to make the immune elements. This happens with every other chronic disease, not just Diabetes Mellitus (DM),” said Mr. Motanya.
A person is considered normal when their blood sugar level is under 7.7mmol/l two hours after eating
Older persons and persons with pre-existing medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart diseases, lung diseases, cancer or diabetes are the most likely to develop more serious illness when they contract coronavirus, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
According to DMRC, a low-level state of inflammation in diabetic patients could make healing of wounds slower, lead to a fast spread of ringworms, oral thrash and make other symptoms worsen
“If you’ve had periods of uncontrolled hypers (high blood sugars) you have noticed that even a simple common cold takes longer to subside than when your blood glucose is well controlled,” said Mr. Motanya.
He added, “Covid-19 is not any different from other flu viral infections, except that it’s spreading faster and has a high infection rate. Once it gets into your body, it just affects you like other respiratory viral infections- RSV, Rhinovirus, Influenza virus, etc. They all produce toxins that challenge your immune system, for a while, and then heal on its own.”
Diabetics are urged to ensure that their bodies are very well prepared to fight this nuisance by observing high levels of personal hygiene, avoiding crowded places, having their blood sugar well controlled and general health taken maximum care of.
“Do not ignore any slight symptom you feel. Stop self-management. Avoid taking medications that are not backed by a doctor’s prescription. Consult your regular doctor any time you feel there’s a change in your general health,” said Mr. Motanya.
The center is also calling on the Government through the Ministry of Health to help inspire confidence among the diabetic community by addressing misinformation on the link between diabetes and COVID-19.
In April, DMRC launched a digital platform to help diabetic patients to improve their health by keeping a balanced diet to cope with disruptions of daily routine and lifestyle brought upon by COVID-19.
The centre looks to help individuals reach a healthy weight for their body types, lower blood pressure and cholesterol and management of diabetes through advisory on the right diet.
DMRC is leveraging on virtual health experts to guide patients on best ways to manage or prevent other nutrition-related chronic diseases like obesity and cardiovascular diseases.