Newly Diagnosed Diabetes in COVID Patients Often Temporary
Blood sugar levels returned to normal in about half of patients with newly diagnosed diabetes after being discharged from the hospital, and only 8% needed insulin after a year, according to a report published recently online at Journal of Diabetes and its Complications. “We believe that inflammatory stress caused by COVID-19 may be the underlying cause of ‘new’ or newly diagnosed diabetes,” said lead author Dr. Sarah Kromer, a researcher at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston.
“Instead of directly causing diabetes, COVID-19 may push patients with pre-existing but undiagnosed diabetes to first see a doctor where their blood sugar disorder can be clinically diagnosed,” she added in a hospital press release. “Our research showed that these people had higher inflammatory markers and required intensive care unit hospitalization more often than COVID-19 patients with pre-existing diabetes.”
For the study, Kromer’s team studied 594 people with COVID-19 patients with symptoms of diabetes when they were admitted to MGH at the height of the pandemic in the spring of 2020. Of these, 78 did not have previous diabetes. The study found that many had less high blood sugar but more severe COVID-19 than people with a previous diagnosis of diabetes.
However, in about half of COVID-related cases, blood sugar levels returned to normal.
“This tells us that newly diagnosed diabetes may be a transient condition associated with acute stress caused by COVID-19 infection,” Cromer said. She explained that acute insulin resistance is a key mechanism underlying newly diagnosed diabetes in most patients with COVID-19, and if it occurs, it is usually not permanent.
“These patients may only need insulin or other medications for a short time, and so it is very important that doctors monitor them closely to see if and when their condition improves,” Kromer added.
The study found that patients with COVID-19 who were recently diagnosed with diabetes were more likely to be younger, non-white, uninsured, or on Medicaid than patients with previously diagnosed diabetes.
The researchers said the finding suggests that many of the new cases were pre-existing but undiagnosed diabetes in people with limited access to healthcare services.
Similar results were recently published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.