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Covid, steroid use for treatment likely cause for rise in diabetes cases: Doctors | India News

AHMEDABAD: Anil Mehta, 48, a real estate broker had never shown high blood sugar in his biannual medical check-ups. He did not have risk factors like hypertension or obesity and had a healthy lifestyle.
A severe Covid-19 illness which required hospitalisation due to 80% lung involvement, however, saw him testing positive for uncontrolled sugar levels over 500 mg/dl.
Six months after surviving Covid, Mehta is now a diabetic who pops two pills a day to keep his sugar levels in check. “Covid has given me diabetes as a parting gift,” says Mehta.
Gujarat, the diabetes capital of India, seems poised for a jump in the number of diabetics post Covid-19 as experts report a perceptible rise either triggered by or detected during the Covid episode.
“A global analysis published in Journal of Diabetes, Obesity & Metabolism last year demonstrated that 14.4% of patients hospitalised with severe Covid developed diabetes. Nationally, experts are estimating 1 crore diabetics will be added due to the pandemic,” says endocrinologist Dr Sanjeev Phatak who has treated 80 patients diagnosed with diabetes after a Covid infection in the pandemic year.
“Covid may attack insulin-producing beta cells of pancreas either resulting in cells to fail or impairing their function, triggering high blood sugar levels or diabetes. Steroid use may also trigger it though it is generally temporary,” says Dr Phatak.
Experts say pre-existing factors like obesity, hypertension, sedentary lifestyle and pandemic-induced stress may also be triggers. “In many patients with risk factors, Covid fast-tracked manifestation of diabetes. In many cases, it is possible diabetes was present but undetected,” said diabetologist Dr Bansi Saboo.
Dr Saboo said a national study is underway to understand the role played by Covid in precipitating diabetes and if it was a permanent disease or a temporary metabolic alteration which resolved as inflammation resolved or effects of steroids wore off.

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