Coronavirus: Third of hospital patients had diabetes

Katherine Johnston (27 May, 2020)

There are an estimated 8,000 people in Southwark with undiagnosed diabetes

36276Image of coronavirus tests / stock

A third of patients who died in hospitals with COVID-19 had diabetes, according to NHS research, shedding light on the risk to the 8,000 people in Southwark who do not realise they are living with the condition.

Previous studies analysing data from English hospitals showed around a quarter of all who died had diabetes. Other ‘co-morbidities’ listed showed eighteen per cent had dementia; eighteen per cent had respiratory problems; fourteen per cent had chronic kidney disease; and ten per cent were diagnosed with ischemic heart disease.

The latest figures, showing the number who had diabetes rose to a third, were published on March 20 by NHS England.  Researchers analysed 23,804 registered COVID-19 deaths in hospitals between March 1 and May 11.

They found that Type 1 diabetes are more at risk of dying from COVID-19 than those with Type 2 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetics are more than three times likely to be killed by the virus than a patient who does not have diabetes.

And although Type 2 diabetics have a lower risk they are still twice as likely to die from COVID-19 than non-diabetics.

However, the largest risk factor so far appears to be age – with those under 40 much less likely to become with COVID-19. Men are also at higher risk.

Type 2 diabetes is also more prevalent in some ethnic groups. People from South Asian and black African and Caribbean descent also have a higher risk of becoming diabetic – all groups with large populations in Southwark and who are disproportionately affected by the virus.

Type 1 diabetes is an incurable auto-immune condition usually diagnosed in early childhood. Type 2 diabetes is mainly associated with lifestyle factors – obesity and diet – and accounts for around 90 per cent of all diabetes diagnoses.  It can usually be prevented through keeping fit and eating healthily.

Despite major public health efforts to prevent diabetes, seen as a major national concern, last year we reported that the number of confirmed diabetics in the borough has risen to a record high – 16,720.  This equates to 6.2 per cent of the population.

Many people do not realise they have type two diabetes until their condition has already caused significant health complications, meaning the true number of people affected in Southwark could be vastly underestimated.

It is now believed around 8,000 people in Southwark could not realise they are living with diabetes. This also means many could be failing to take the steps they need to protect themselves from COVID-19.

As a general rule, people with diabetes are not classed as ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ and therefore do not need to be fully shielded – but this depends on each individual’s health and whether they are living with other conditions, too.

Everyone with diabetes is in the ‘clinically vulnerable group’ which means they should follow stringent social distancing advice.

Signs and symptoms of Type 2 diabetes, according to the NHS, include needing to urinate more than often, especially at night, feeling thirsty all the time, tiredness, unintended weight loss, itching around the genitals or repeated thrush, cuts taking longer to heal, and blurred vision.

If you are worried, contact your GP who can arrange a blood test.

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