Patients with diabetes mellitus are at increased risk of severe morbidity and mortality from COVID-19, which is why doctors from all over the world pay special attention to such patients. According to a UK National Health System (NHS) report, the risk of dying from coronavirus infection in people with type 1 diabetes is 3.5 times higher than the risk of those without diabetes. With type 2 diabetes, it is twice as high. However, blood sugar levels can be elevated in other conditions, for example, with liver and gastrointestinal tract pathology, inflammatory diseases of the endocrine glands, hormonal imbalance, or pregnancy.
Researchers from Spain analyzed data from more than 11 thousand patients hospitalized from March to May and found that excess sugar without diabetes can also affect the course of COVID-19. The average age of patients was 67 years, of which more than 57% were men. 18.9% of patients were diagnosed with diabetes mellitus, or their medical records had data on medication for diabetics. At hospitalization, blood was taken from each patient for sugar, and the authors of the study divided the results into three groups: normal, high and very high levels.
The researchers found that excess sugar was mainly found in older men with diabetes, hypertension and other chronic diseases. These patients were more likely to have elevated markers of inflammation. But the biggest finding was that high blood sugar influenced mortality risk even in non-diabetic patients.
Among patients who died from COVID-19 (more than 20% of the sample), 41.1% had high blood sugar. These patients spent more time in the hospital and needed more intensive care, including mechanical ventilation, compared to people with normal blood sugar.
The study authors emphasize that some patients may not have known about their diabetic status, so they were mistakenly classified as non-diabetic. In any case, doctors should consider screening blood glucose levels in hospitalized patients with COVID-19 in order to take timely action and reduce the risk of mortality, scientists say.