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Unmanaged Diabetes Associated With Greater COVID-19 Severity

Technology Today

A new study reveals unmanaged diabetes is a key factor in COVID-19 severity and complications, particularly among Hispanic and Latinx populations. Findings of the retrospective study were presented at the virtual 81st Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association® (ADA).

Forty percent of Americans who have died of COVID-19 have had diabetes, and 1 in 10 people with diabetes hospitalized for COVID-19 die within one week – making diabetes a high-risk comorbidity. When left untreated, diabetes can lead to increased overall health complication. Yet, nearly 1 in 5 Americans with diabetes report that due to the increased financial constraints of the pandemic they had to choose between buying food or buying medications and medical supplies required to manage their diabetes.

The study sought to determine the impact of unmanaged diabetes, or a lack of  medication use, on COVID-19 severity and recovery within in a predominately Hispanic population (89%) — a population 2.4 times more likely to die of COVID-19 and 50% more likely to have diabetes than white Americans.

The retrospective study was conducted by a multidisciplinary team lead by Dr. Sudip Bajpeyi, Director of the MiNER laboratory, at the University of the Texas at El Paso and was presented by his master's student Ali Mossayebi. This study used medical records from 369 patients admitted to the University Medical Center, El Paso, TX with COVID-19. Patients were categorized based on A1C levels into normoglycemic (N: A1C <5.7%), prediabetes (Pre: A1c 5.7% ≤ 6.5%) and diabetes mellitus (DM: A1C ≥ 6.5%) groups. The DM group was further categorized for their self-reported diabetes management with medication at the time of the admission.

Findings show patients with unmanaged diabetes had significantly greater severity of COVID-19 based on quick sepsis-related organ failure assessment (qSOFA) and length of hospitalization compared to patients who managed diabetes with medication. Moreover, patients with lower blood sugar (blood glucose) levels had less severe complications and shorter hospital stays. "Our results highlight the importance of assessing, monitoring, and controlling blood glucose in hospitalized COVID-19 patients from the start, specifically for vulnerable populations already at risk of co-morbidities." said Sudip Bajpeyi, PhD, University of Texas at El Paso and lead author of the study.

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