Most people who have COVID-19 recover completely within a few weeks, but older people and those with serious medical conditions are the most likely to experience lingering COVID-19 symptoms. It can damage lungs and many other organs (i.e., liver and kidneys) and increase the risk of long-term health problems. Data from the COVID Symptom Study suggest that 10% to 15% of people who get infected develop persistent symptoms and don´t recover quickly.
The most common symptoms identified by the Mayo Clinic include fatigue, cough, shortness of breath, headache and joint pain. COVID-19 can also make blood cells more likely to form clots; much of the heart damage caused by the virus is believed to stem from small clots that block the capillaries there. COVID-19 can also weaken blood vessels, which can contribute to potentially long-lasting problems in several organs
It’s becoming increasingly clear that people with diabetes face a higher chance of experiencing serious complications from COVID-19. Generally, the more health conditions someone has, the higher their chance of getting serious complications from the novel virus.
Your risk of getting sick from COVID-19 is likely to be lower if your diabetes is well-managed. When people with diabetes do not manage their diabetes well and experience fluctuating blood sugars, they are generally at risk for many diabetes-related complications. Having heart disease or other complications in addition to diabetes could worsen the chance of getting seriously ill from COVID-19, like other viral infections, because your body’s ability to fight off an infection is compromised.
It’s not all gloomy news: people with diabetes learn to take over the job of an organ, and this trains them to pay attention to their bodies more intently, understand cause and effect, and react to changes. Take for example the compelling story of Cynthia Katsingris, a US mother of two, who has lived with type 1 diabetes for 30 years and recovered from COVID-19.
Cynthia went from being utterly terrified of catching COVID-19 to testing positive for the virus. Her realization that she was positive was replaced with an unshakable determination to fight the virus. She said: “People with diabetes strive for mastery of how food, sleep, stress, illness, and so many other factors affect the body and its blood sugar levels – and I could use that to my advantage.”
Cynthia voraciously read scientific papers about the virus and was able to break the situation into unemotional parts and focus intently, as with diabetes, on the parts she could control, like what are the obstacles, what helps remove the obstacles, and what supports a return to health. She used her continuous glucose monitor (CGM) to avoid possible incorrect blood glucose readings due to tissue compression while she was spending all day in bed. She took vitamins and supplements to stop viral replication, boost immune function, assist cellular function, and support the lungs. But foremost, Cynthia focused on what people with diabetes are already very aware of – that what we eat matters, our mindset matters, and being proactive matters.
As we said up front, most people with COVID-19 recover quickly. But the potentially long-lasting problems from the virus make it critical to reduce the spread of the disease by following precautions such as wearing masks, avoiding crowds, and keeping hands clean.