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Recent Studies Show COVID-19 Could Possibly Trigger Diabetes

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- When the coronavirus ignited the pandemic over a year ago, it was thought to be mostly a lung virus, causing serious pneumonia.

Now we know that COVID can affect almost every organ in the body -- heart, liver, kidneys, brain -- and there's a new, surprising effect of the virus -- diabetes.

Diabetes comes in two main flavors -- Type 1 and Type 2. While they have different causes, both result in high blood sugar and similar long-term consequences.

A number of viruses are known to raise blood sugar and even trigger Type 1 diabetes but not coronaviruses.

As CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez reports, now, several recent studies have found a potentially troubling possibility that COVID-19 could trigger diabetes in people who were not previously diabetic.


"Now there's some data that it may be in the pancreas and certainly other organs, and that may relate to some diseases that we're seeing, such as diabetes," said Dr. Ian Lustbader with NYU Langone Health.

If the virus attacks insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, either by directly damaging them or as a side effect of immune system inflammation as it fights the virus, that could lead to Type 1 diabetes.

But Lustbader says there are a number of other ways COVID-19 could trigger especially Type 2 diabetes.

"By being sedentary, by eating too many carbs, by gaining weight, and also, patients in the hospital often treated with steroids and steroids alone can cause increased weight gain and hyperglycemia," he said.


This correlation between COVID and diabetes is still preliminary and much remains to be worked out. Is it Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes? Is it temporary or reversible, and exactly how is the virus causing high blood sugar?

Another possibility for the increase in diabetes is that people put off going to the doctor during lockdowns and now there's a flood of delayed diagnoses.

In any case, it's another example of the shockingly varied damage this coronavirus can cause.

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