Diabetics have to always struggle to control their ailment through a measured lifestyle. Now the Covid-19 pandemic has made it even harder for them by disrupting their treatment as well as putting a break on walking – an important aspect in their daily life.
Studies have shown that patients with diabetes have a much higher risk of developing Covid and of death. It is not that diabetics do not recover from Covid but new complications are created in them because of the viral disease.
The National Institute of Preventive and Social Medicine (Nipsom) studied 1,016 Covid patients, identified in its own lab, and found that the number of patients having co-morbidities, including diabetes, kidney and lung disease, was higher among dead patients. Among those diseased, diabetic patients were the most in number.
According to the Diabetes Association, about 85 lakh people in the country are currently suffering from diabetes.
More alarming is that Covid patients, who did not have diabetes before, are developing diabetes anew after recovery from the viral disease. Although their number is still low, health experts have expressed concern over the issue, having been unable to identify any specific reason behind it.
Professor AK Azad Khan, chairman of the Diabetes Association, told The Business Standard that diabetes increases the risk of coronavirus infection and reduces the chances of survival after re-infection.
"Therefore, in order to control diabetes, one will have to follow a controlled lifestyle as well as maintain social distance to stay safe from Covid and follow the necessary hygiene rules, including wearing masks."
But it is proving difficult for diabetics, despite all the efforts, to live a controlled life in accordance with hygiene rules amid this pandemic.
Abdur Razzak Khan (54), a Dhaka University teacher, has been suffering from diabetes for 35 years. Although his ailment had been under control due to his taking insulin for a long time and walking regularly in the morning, it is now no longer possible for him to control the disease. Before the Covid outbreak, his blood sugar level was 5.7 millimoles per litre (mmol/L), which now has increased to 13mmol/L.
"At the beginning of the Covid pandemic, I had to stop regular walking and seeing a doctor," he said.
"I consulted a doctor only once through telemedicine. But now, I am suffering from various physical problems, including mental pressure and fatigue, due to a rise in the sugar level."
The Covid-induced nationwide shutdown ended quite a long time ago. However, Abdur Razzak cannot walk properly yet.
"People on the streets do not follow hygiene protocols. That is why I am afraid to go out," he said.
Like Abdur Razzak, most diabetics are unable to see a doctor or control their blood sugar in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Professor Ridwanur Rahman, a medical specialist and head of the research centre at Universal Medical College, told The Business Standard that diabetes patients need to be tested regularly and determine their doses based on the tests. Besides, they have to take regular walks.
But all these are being hampered due to Covid, multiplying the sufferings and risk for them, he added.
New Crisis: Covid leads to diabetes
A new crisis that has emerged in these pandemic times is that of diabetes developing among people after their recovery from Covid.
A study conducted on 734 patients in Chattogram, who recovered from Covid, found that 1.4% of them had developed diabetes.
These patients were treated at four Covid hospitals in Chattogram from 1 April to 30 June.
The study has shown that patients, who previously had complications such as overweight, high blood pressure and heart disease, are more likely to develop diabetes after recovering from Covid.
The lead researcher of the study, Dr Adnan Mannan, an associate professor at the Department of Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology, University of Chittagong, told The Business Standard that the research could not identify why patients are being infected with diabetes after recovering from Covid.
However, he pointed out, such patients were at risk of diabetes before they contracted Covid.
He also said the drugs that are being used to treat Covid, including steroids, may increase the amount of glucose in patients' blood.
"We have found a much higher sugar level in diabetes patients after they recovered from Covid. More intensive research, however, is needed on it."
Professor Ridwanur Rahman said Covid patients, who needed intensive care unit (ICU) or high-flow oxygen support, were found to have developed diabetes later. However, he does not know the exact reason for this.
Dr Mohib Ullah Khondoker, vice-principal of Gonoshasthaya Samaj Vittik Medical College, has tested positive for Covid twice.
He had no diabetes before his Covid infection for the first time in May. Later, he again turned out Covid positive, and when he tested negative last month, his blood sugar level had risen to 22mmol/L. Now he has to control his diabetes by taking regular insulin.