COVID-19

COVID would increase the risk of diabetes in those under 18

(Photo: Canadian Press)

Young people under the age of 18 who are diagnosed with COVID-19 are at increased risk of being diagnosed with diabetes, an analysis by researchers at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows.

The risk of being diagnosed with diabetes was higher in these young people than in those who had not been diagnosed with COVID-19 and even those who had been diagnosed with a respiratory tract infection.

These findings support previous studies that found an association between COVID-19 and diabetes in adults.

“It’s a sign we didn’t see coming (in young people), according to previous studies,” said Dr. Rémi Rabasa-Lhoret, a diabetes specialist at the Montreal Clinical Research Institute. There are plausible mechanisms (…) even if we have not formally tested the mechanisms by which this could occur. »

The mechanisms responsible for an increased risk of diabetes in young people infected with SARS-CoV-2 are likely very complex, CDC researchers admit, and possibly result from direct damage to organs involved in diabetes risk.

The researchers put forward several hypotheses, such as a direct attack on pancreatic cells and stress hyperglycemia associated with the often-making news cytokine storm.

Laboratory experiments have shown, for example, that SARS-CoV-2 can “damage” cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, said Dr. Rabasa-Lhoret.

In addition, he adds, all infections, including COVID, interfere with the normal functioning of cells in the body, and medications used to treat COVID (such as cortisone) could be involved.

prediabetes and overweight

CDC experts also point to a possible acceleration of the transition from prediabetes to diabetes: A percentage of new diabetes diagnoses are likely to occur in patients with prediabetes, a condition that affects 20% of adolescents in the United States. United States, the authors said.

It is also not impossible, they add, that diabetes diagnoses have occurred in young people who have gained weight since the start of the pandemic, since overweight and obesity are the main risk factors for diabetes.

“When we look at the large published studies, we see that there are around 50% of people whose eating habits, physical activity or stress have ultimately been relatively unaffected by COVID,” said Dr. Rabasa-Lhoret.

“There is about another 25%, on the contrary, among whom there is a very significant deterioration (…) and who unfortunately had a bad experience with the first waves of COVID. We know that factors such as physical inactivity or poor diet or rapid weight gain in a predisposed person can trigger diabetes. »

CDC analysis is currently unable to determine whether diabetes associated with COVID-19 is chronic or transient.

Experts ask family members of young people infected with SARS-CoV-2 to be alert for symptoms of diabetes, which include frequent urination, increased thirst and hunger, weight loss, fatigue, stomach and nausea or vomiting.

We should not delay consulting a health professional, argues Dr. Rabasa-Lhoret, even if the population’s reluctance to go to the hospital or clinic in the current context is understandable and well-documented.

“The later patients arrive, especially for type 1 diabetes, the greater the short-term health risks,” he said. We see people who get sick later and understand very well why people are reluctant to wait hours in the ER. »

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