• 4/11/2020

    ​Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) is stressing the importance of good blood sugar control for all individuals to maintain the immune system’s ability to fight off diseases. The Corporation says it appears that people with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, are at higher risk for experiencing severe illness should they contract COVID-19, highlighting the importance of good blood sugar control because it might help in reducing the risk of infection and the severity.

    “We know that people with diabetes are considered high-risk for severe COVID-19 illness. Early data from China, where the virus was first reported, has shown that people with diabetes had much higher rates of serious complications from this virus, compared to people without diabetes,” said Ms. Manal Othman, Director of Diabetes Education at HMC.

    “In general, patients with diabetes, particularly those whose disease is not well controlled, and diabetics who have other health conditions, for example, diabetes and heart disease, are more susceptible to infections. These patients are more at risk for infections like the flu and pneumonia due to hyperglycemia, which can reduce the immune system’s ability to fight illness,” added Ms. Othman.

    Ms. Othman says if diabetics effectively manage their blood glucose levels to stay within a healthy range, their risk of getting severely sick from COVID-19 is about the same as the general population.

    “Good glucose control is very helpful in fighting infections and this is especially important during this time when we are faced with the COVID-19 pandemic. Patients with all forms of diabetes must monitor their glucose more frequently during this period. Sudden spikes in glucose are not uncommon when people are confronted with disrupted routines and a high level of stress and these factors are very common right now for many people,” said Ms. Othman.

    “It is really important that patients with diabetes take extra steps to ensure their condition is well managed. Patients who are taking medications to control their diabetes should continue to follow the directions of their healthcare team. And if they have questions, they should call their doctor. Any patient with diabetes is also able to call the diabetes hotline,” said Ms. Othman.

    In response to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, HMC has extended the hours of operation for its diabetes hotline (16099; select option 4). This phone-based emergency service is now available seven days a week from 7am to 10pm to provide individuals with all types of diabetes who are receiving care at HMC, as well as their relatives or caregivers, with medical advice related to diabetes and COVID.

    Ms. Othman says more frequent monitoring of glucose levels will ensure fluctuations can be detected early and quickly addressed. She added that while it may seem extreme, family members living in a household with individuals who have diabetes should conduct themselves as if they were a significant risk to their family member.

    “Help members of your household understand your risk for more severe COVID-19 illness and encourage them to wash their hands before interacting with you. Explain to them the importance of taking special care in adhering to infection prevention practices and ask them to restrict trips to public spaces and interactions with nonessential contacts,” Ms. Othman.

    Ms. Othman encourages diabetics to keep an adequate supply of their medications and related supplies, such as syringes or pens, insulin pump supplies, glucose strips, alcohol swabs, and ketone strips, in the event they need to self-isolate or quarantine. She says diabetics should also prioritize self-care, following the nutrition guidelines prescribed by their dietitian, getting regular exercise, ideally ten minutes in the morning, ten minutes in the afternoon, and ten minutes in the evening, and getting sufficient sleep.