Living and Coping With Diabetes

Everything We Know About The Relationship Between COVID-19 And Diabetes

From the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, researchers and scientists have been certain that the resulting disease, COVID-19, could be far more dangerous to patients with underlying conditions like heart disease or diabetes. The relationship between COVID-19 and diabetes is becoming clearer with each passing day — and what we now know is cause for concern. It appears that COVID-19 might actually cause diabetes.

Diabetics who have Type-1 diabetes have trouble creating insulin because an immune response terminates the cells responsible for making it. This process usually occurs in the pancreas. That’s why some people have to inject insulin themselves. 

Monash University Metabolic disease specialist Paul Zimmet said, “Diabetes is dynamite if you get COVID-19.” But there’s a reason why: “Diabetes itself is a pandemic just like the COVID-19 pandemic. The two pandemics could be clashing.”

Zimmet believes COVID-19 actually might be a diabetes trigger, causing the condition in otherwise healthy individuals.

It wouldn’t be a huge shock if this were the case.

That’s because Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) is already considered a risk factor for diabetes (and could be considered a cousin of coronavirus). The same organs that help maintain your blood sugar use ACE2, a protein that SARS-CoV-2 (the strain of coronavirus responsible for this pandemic) to override cells. A new study suggests that this relationship could prove disastrous.

Zimmet said, “In science, sometimes you have to start off with very small evidence to chase a hypothesis.”

Not everyone agrees.

University of Glasgow metabolic-disease researcher Naveed Sattar said, “We need to keep an eye on diabetes rates in those with prior COVID-19, and determine if rates go up and over expected levels.”

In other words, it’s too early to be making conclusions — and we need to keep an eye on what matters here and now, which is reducing the rate of infection for coronavirus while we protect those most at risk (including those who have diabetes already).

Am I At Greater Risk From The Coronavirus Because I Have Diabetes?

It’s a risky day and age we’re living in right now — risky for all of us, not just those who are living with underlying conditions that could make us more susceptible to the disease caused by the coronavirus. The disease is called COVID-19. Symptoms might include shortness of breath, fever, cough, and runny nose. While there is much we don’t know about how the coronavirus attacks its host, we do know that COVID-19 is far more dangerous if you’re older or have an underlying condition.

Is one of those underlying conditions diabetes?

The obvious answer seems like “yes,” but the truth is that we don’t have enough data to be sure. It’s helpful to remember that the coronavirus is extremely new. We believe that people living with diabetes aren’t necessarily more likely to contract the virus than anyone else, but that outcomes are less likely to be positive. Still, it seems like older people living with diabetes are at far greater risk than the young.

According to the American Diabetes Association FAQ: “People with diabetes do face a higher chance of experiencing serious complications from COVID-19. In general, people with diabetes are more likely to experience severe symptoms and complications when infected with [any] virus. If diabetes is well-managed, the risk of getting severely sick from COVID-19 is about the same as the general population.”

Do you have COVID-19 symptoms already? The ADA recommends that you: “Have your glucose reading available, have your ketone reading available, keep track of your fluid consumptions (you can use a 1-liter water bottle) and report, be clear on your symptoms (for example: are you nauseated? Just a stuffy nose?), [and] ask your questions on how to manage your diabetes.”

The bottom line is this: there has never been a better time to keep your diabetes under control. Although you should be staying indoors as much as possible and avoiding people in general, you need to be getting the appropriate amount of exercise. Vitamin D never hurt anybody! Don’t go outside with a group, but feel free to take a walk around the block or find an out-of-the-way hike to enjoy.

Manage your meals as best you can. Frozen fruits and veggies are just as good as fresh, and you need them right now. Don’t skimp on nutritional content or allow yourself to become lazy during this time of crisis. 

The second you feel sick, make that call!

Scientists Accidentally Cure Diabetes In Mice As Popular Drug Pulled From Market

Anyone living with diabetes will tell you that the struggle is a roller coaster ride. That was increasingly apparent this past week as we got news from one end of the spectrum and then veered all the way to the other end — both good and bad. The bad news is that a popular diabetes drug called metformin might be pulled from the market over potentially high levels of a carcinogenic ingredient. 

The good news is that laboratory mice were accidentally functionally cured of the disease — which means humans might be next.

Testing performed by trusted online pharmacy Valisure found NDMA in at least 16 different batches of the drug metformin, which is one of the most commonly prescribed diabetes drugs on the market. This quickly resulted in a petition to recall the drug until more tests can be done to find out whether or not the NDMA is the result of large scale contamination or just somehow a base ingredient of the drug.

Scientists have discovered a way to convert stem cells into something called a “beta cell” in order to secrete the hormone insulin, the lack of which causes diabetes. When the converted beta cells were placed inside diabetic mice, they were quickly cured of the disease.

Lead author of the Washington University study, Jeffrey Millman, said, “These mice had very severe diabetes with blood sugar readings of more than 500 milligrams per deciliter of blood — levels that could be fatal for a person — and when we gave the mice the insulin-secreting cells, within two weeks their blood glucose levels had returned to normal and stayed that way for many months.”

The beta cells relevant to insulin production in the body are normally produced inside a person’s pancreas. That’s why those who have diabetes must inject insulin into the bloodstream when the body runs low. If scientists can reproduce the results of the study within human subjects, it’s possible that we might have a functional cure within years.

Millman said, “The more off-target cells you get, the less therapeutically relevant cells you have. You need about a billion beta cells to cure a person of diabetes. But if a quarter of the cells you make are actually liver cells or other pancreas cells, instead of needing a billion cells, you’ll need 1.25 billion cells. It makes curing the disease 25 percent more difficult.”

That’s why old studies have failed to produce the needed results. The unwanted cells are not made by the converted beta cells, making a cure that much more manageable.

Artificial Intelligence Might Be Part Of The Next Diabetes Treatment Plan

No one wants to be diagnosed with a condition like diabetes. It’s basically a life sentence. It’s not the worst-case scenario, but it certainly puts added pressure on people to exercise more frequently and eat right. Doing either of those things in combination and consistently enough that they make a difference can be a struggle for anyone who isn’t accustomed to the burden. No one wants to prick a finger for the rest of their days, either.

But treatment plans are changing. Might artificial intelligence be the next big driver of diabetes treatment? It works through wearable devices, which are becoming an increasingly popular alternative for diabetics.

Many media reports have suggested that the pace of AI advancement has once again slowed to a crawl, much like it did thirty years ago. But that’s nonsense. The biggest companies we know — like Google, Apple, Microsoft, and even Facebook — are still funneling an insane amount of resources into making the AI better. 

A new system that would help diabetics detect low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) non-invasively is currently under development by a team of researchers who published the results of a new program in Scientific Reports

It’s not perfect yet. Scientists working out of the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom have managed to show an 82 percent success rate. That means that their computer can diagnose hypoglycemia about four out of five times. 

Lead author Leandro Pecchia said, “Our innovation consisted in using [AI] for automatic detecting [of] hypoglycemia via few ECG beats. This is relevant because ECG can be detected in any circumstance, including sleeping.”

Scientists watched healthy participants around the clock for two weeks to see how often they could accurately record glucose readings through their newly created AI program. They did this not by testing blood, but by measuring heart rhythm. 

Diabetes is a growing public health concern, prompting state governments to sign new measures into law that recognize the epidemic. Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker recently signed a new law to place price caps on diabetic medications. Senator Andy Manar, who sponsored the new bill, said it was the “biggest step that we can take under Illinois law.”

But of course more needs to be done, especially when diagnosing those who may be suffering from diabetes. Those who are not covered by health insurance are far less likely to visit the doctor and may not realize they have the condition.

Pritzker said, “Diabetes affects people from all walks of life. It doesn’t discriminate between those who can afford medication at unconscionable cost and those who cannot.”

What Are The Long-Term Adverse Health Effects Of Mismanaged Diabetes?

Diabetes is a dangerous condition under which to live — especially if you aren’t properly caring for yourself. Those who live with diabetes must be careful to eat right and get enough exercise. Even though new medical advancements provide a much better outlook, they don’t mean anything if you can’t manage the symptoms. These are some of the worst long-term adverse health effects of mismanaged diabetes. 

Without proper self-care, diabetics will likely sustain increasingly severe damage to blood vessels (most common in the legs, heart, and brain). Damage to smaller blood vessels is common in feet, kidneys, and eyes. Nerve damage is common. But long-term health effects will damage one system after another. You will notice digestive troubles, skin trouble, performance issues, and a weakened immune system.

Because those with diabetes often have increased cholesterol, it’s important to reduce consumption of meat and dairy products. Those who suffer from diabetes are also subject to increased blood pressure. These issues can lead to cardiovascular disease. Do you have a family history of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or both? You’re even more at risk.

Diabetics are subject to various eye diseases, including retinopathy, macular oedema, cataracts, and glaucoma. These diseases can result in permanent damage and loss of vision, and sometimes present with few or no symptoms. If you suspect that your vision is impaired due to diabetes complications, seek medical attention immediately!

Diabetics are also subject to kidney disease because of damage to small blood vessels. This is another complication that might present with few or no symptoms at first. 

Severe nerve damage might also occur. This is due to high blood glucose, alcoholism, and vitamin B12 deficiencies, the last of which might result from diabetes medications. Nerve damage often presents in feet, legs, hands, arms, chest, and stomach. Damage to appendages is one of the reasons why diabetics are at risk of infection or amputation.

The feet are especially prone to nerve damage when blood supply is reduced or restricted. More serious complications often arise because the body’s natural healing processes are slowed dramatically while the risk of infection is increased. Those who suffer from diabetes might note numbness or reduced feeling in the feet. Ulcers are common.

The structural purpose of skin is to reduce the probability of infection. Diabetes often results in excessively dry skin — and that means an increased opportunity for infection everywhere. 

Tooth decay and gum infections also result from restricted blood flow.

Because other health issues can result in increased levels of stress, diabetics are more susceptible to mental health problems. Anxiety and depression can also result in fluctuations in glucose levels, making the disease even more dangerous.

Should You Be Wearing A Smartwatch For Your Diabetes?

Technology has come a long way in the last five years — especially wearable devices and what they’re capable of reporting. It’s not just about the “number of daily steps” or monitoring heart rate anymore. And that’s great, because about 9 percent of the world’s population has now been diagnosed as having Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. We need new ways of diagnosing and managing the condition as it gets worse.

Heart disease and cancer continue to rank as the number one and two threats to our health as we age, but diabetes can lead to heart disease. Technology has always been a big part of understanding how and why diabetes affects us. Anyone growing up with diabetes in the last 30 years knows how to prick their finger with a needle so they can use a little handheld to find out if they have low blood sugar. 

But what if we can be more consistent? What if we can show people what their long-term outlook is instead of just showing them what their day will be like?

That’s what the smartwatch revolution is trying to accomplish.

Insulin users have been wearing continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) devices for a few years now. There’s no longer a need to prick your finger. These devices help those who suffer from diabetes better manage their condition, lowering the risks of serious side effects (like the aforementioned heart disease).

But smartwatches are capable of providing the same information, and much more. Dexcom CTO Jake Leach said, “The smartphone platform really opened up a lot of functionality that is not typical in medical devices.” 

He says that these technologies are really great for parents whose children are suffering from diabetes: “The parent has the safety blanket of knowing how things are going. They can set up alerts and alarms that can communicate if there’s an issue that has to be dealt with, so they don’t have to worry as much.”

The devices can also be used for research purposes. Diabetic patients can opt to have the CGM reading continuously uploaded to servers where the information is then used to make even better gizmos. 

Leach said, “The folks that utilize that technology have better glucose control than those that don’t and we kind of attributed it to the fact that they’ve got others helping them manage their diabetes…Diabetes is such an evolutionary thing and it develops over time and changes. You have to always be looking to change the way of managing it.”

Artificial Pancreas Might Soon Help Patients Better Control Type 1 Diabetes

Diabetes can up-end someone’s life. You become accustomed to a specific way of living. You eat what you want. You don’t get enough exercise, but you’re happy. Or maybe you do eat healthy and exercise a lot — and you’re happier for it. Either way, type 1 diabetes can strike without warning. And that means life changes are in order whether you had adopted healthy living before diagnosis or not. 

It turns out an artificial pancreas might one day soon help you out.

A new clinical trial showed that an artificial pancreas performed better than current treatments for Type 1 diabetes. Not only did the new organs help patients maintain control over their blood sugar during the day, but the artificial pancreas also made getting through the night a lot easier.

It was only a six-month trial for 168 patients with Type 1 diabetes, aged 14 and above, but the controlled system showed promising results so far. 

Boris Kovatchev, the director of the Center for Diabetes Technology at the University of Virginia, said, “This artificial pancreas system has several unique features that improve glucose control beyond what is achievable using traditional methods…In particular, there is a special safety module dedicated to prevention of hypoglycemia, and there is gradually intensified control overnight to achieve near-normal blood sugar levels every morning.”

The study was recently published in The New England Journal of Medicine. Data related to the study has been forwarded to the FDA for assessment. 

Artificial organs are more common nowadays because of advances in bioprinting (3D-printing using synthetic or biological material). In the future, the need for organ donation will experience a marked decline as we can cheaply and quickly replace organs with artificial ones. More importantly, these artificial organs will be tailored to an individual’s personal needs, potentially outperforming the original.

The hope is that eventually artificial organs, combined with a healthy lifestyle, will allow patients to easily manage diseases — or eliminate them altogether.

Daniela Bruttomesso of the University of Padua in Italy wrote: “These results are impressive and clinically relevant, since it has been shown that for each 10% reduction in the time spent in the glucose target range, the risk of development or progression of retinopathy increases by 64% and the risk of development of microalbuminuria by 40%.”

To put it into perspective, the artificial pancreas resulted in increased average healthy glucose levels in study participants by 2.6 hours a day. Retinopathy refers to potential retinal damage in a patient’s eyes. Microalbuminuria refers to the presence of albumin in the urine. An artificial pancreas might help reduce the chances of these complications.

Activist Arrested While Protesting Insulin Price Gouging Practices

A vigil at Eli Lilly’s United States headquarters turned sour a few days ago as activists remembered those who had died because they did not have access to the insulin they needed to preserve their own lives. When diabetic patients can’t get the insulin they require, they try to ration it — and that’s what usually turns deadly. Nicole Smith-Holt was arrested when she let the police know she would be conducting acts of civil disobedience at the vigil.

Republicans in the Minnesota Senate have finally agreed that something needs to be done about the worsening crisis, but they still won’t agree to provide medication for free to those who desperately need it. And simply saying something needs to be done doesn’t do anything for those who are dying today.

Smith-Holt said, “The time frame seems too long. Lives can be lost during that waiting period. As you could tell from my testimony, my son died in the matter of 24 hours without insulin.”

A new House bill to address these concerns was named after Smith-Holt’s son: it’s called the Alec Smith Emergency Insulin Plan. According to the details, diabetics without the resources to get their own insulin fast would be given a 90-day supply to hold them over until they get back on their feet and can afford their own.

“Our plan tries to catch patients before they’re in crisis,” said Eric Pratt, a Republican senator from Prior Lake while criticizing plans that don’t go far enough.

Unsurprisingly, the pharmaceutical industry has voiced its discontent regarding the new plan in a new statement: “We have serious concerns the Minnesota Senate is now contemplating an overly broad Minnesota insulin assistance program that would force insulin manufacturers to give away insulin products for free.”

Of course the “concerns” are absurd. The insulin would first be paid for by the Minnesota government, not manufacturers. The pharmaceutical industry — and other opponents to the Alec Smith plan — have forgotten that the entire point of government is to protect the people from harm.

They also dismiss other consequences that crop up when patients don’t have access to insulin. Those who survive the crisis are usually looking at a lifetime of ever-worsening health problems, which ends up burdening the healthcare system even more. Yes, someone has to pay for the treatment plans — but doing so before the problem turns into a death sentence or a lifetime of illness is always the cheaper option.

Thankfully, new research is helping diabetics more easily manage the disease. A new glucose monitor called Dexcom is one of the newest on the market.

Diabetic Man Deported By Trump Administration Dies In Iraq

Jimmy Aldaoud, a 41-year-old former resident of Detroit, apparently died from diabetes after he was deported from the United States by the Trump Administration. Even though he’d been born in Greece, he was sent to Iraq, a country he’d never stepped foot in before. He didn’t know the language and could not acquire access to the insulin medication he needed to survive.

Aldaoud’s lawyer, Edward Bajoka, did not mince words when addressing the question of whether or not Trump and his policies are to blame for his client’s death:

“Jimmy was found dead today in Iraq. The likely cause of death was not being able to get  his insulin. He is a diabetic. He was forcefully deported to Iraq a couple of months ago. He was born in Greece and had never been to Iraq. He knew no one there. He did not speak Arabic. He was a member of the Chaldean minority group. He was a paranoid schizophrenic. His mental health was the primary reason for his legal issue that led to his deportation.”

He continued, “Rest in peace Jimmy. Your blood is on the hands of ICE and this administration.”

Jimmy Aldaoud’s situation showcased two significant problems in our society: One, diabetes can be a dangerous and deadly condition without proper care or medication — even though it should be entirely within our power to treat with today’s medical knowledge — and two, the Trump Administration doesn’t care how long you’ve been living in the United States if you can’t contribute and have brown skin.

Aldaoud had lived here since he was about six months old. 

ACLU lawyer Miriam Aukerman said, “We knew he would not survive if deported.” But ICE officials didn’t care. Aukerman also explained that she believes these same policies are to blame for additional deaths that have gone unreported so far.

Others have been quick to call out Trump’s abhorrent policies for what they are.

Annahar writer Hisham Melhem tweeted, “As if 41 years of mental illness, marginalization and diabetes are not cruel enough for Jimmy Aldaoud, America, in our name, exiled him to a home that was never a home, to die alone, destitute and broken.”

Senator Kamala Harris (D-California) said, “The cruelty of this administration knows no bounds.”

Beto O’Rourke, Harris’s fellow Democratic candidate in the 2020 race, tweeted, “Each day, we are made lower by this administration’s cruelty.”

If you cannot find access to the diabetes medications you need to survive, please contact us today.

The Curse Of Low Blood Sugar: What You Can Do About It

Diabetic patients are especially prone to periods of dangerously low blood sugar in part because of the medications they are often prescribed. This condition, called hypoglycemia, is sometimes the result of overusing medication, but excessive exercise, meal skipping, or simply eating less can all lead to a low blood sugar event as well. What makes the condition especially scary is that you can have it and not even know it.

People suffering from low blood sugar can fall unconscious or lapse into a coma — all without realizing anything was wrong. If no one is around to help, the condition can lead to death. That is a terrifying possibility for someone diagnosed with a lifelong condition, so what can you do about it?

Low blood sugar occurs when it dips under 70 mg/dL. That means you aren’t getting the glucose you need, and your body can’t retain the functionality a normal person’s would. 

That’s why the first step is checking your blood sugar as often as possible to ensure that it remains where it should. When it falls on more than one occasion the first step is to discover why it’s happening — and then prevent a recurrence.

Although low blood sugar can present without symptoms (hypoglycemic unawareness), you might experience:

  • Nervousness
  • Pale skin
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Mood swings
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Blurry vision
  • Hunger
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Shaking
  • Insomnia 
  • Tingly skin
  • Seizure
  • Confusion

When you discover that your blood sugar is lower than it should be, you need carbohydrates that your body can digest more easily. Soda, juice, honey, candy, crackers, or even a small spoonful of sugar can help you balance your blood sugar. 

Work with a diabetic educator or healthcare provider to determine a diet and exercise regimen right for you. Don’t skip meals or start exercising more frequently than you did before. When physically active, consider a snack before or during the increased activity if you know you’re prone to low blood sugar during or after exercise.

Regularity is a diabetic’s most important weapon when fighting the condition. Diabetics must keep close track of the carbohydrates they consume in order to maintain proper blood sugar. They must also be very careful when drinking alcohol, which is best taken with food.

Depending on how serious your symptoms are, some diabetic patients might benefit from keeping a glucagon emergency kit on their person at all times. The medication will help your body increase its own blood sugar by releasing what is already stored in the liver.