New UK studies examine risks of COVID-19 in people with type 1 diabetes

The National Health Service (NHS) in England recently released two studies that provide the first information available about risks of COVID-19 in people with type 1 diabetes (T1D). The findings – which are still undergoing peer review – tell us that for people that need to be hospitalized due to COVID-19, those with type 1 diabetes are at higher risk of death than people with type 2 diabetes, or the general population.

JDRF’s Chief Scientific Officer, Sarah Linklater, helps to put into context what these findings might mean for those living with T1D in Canada.

“The headline findings of these studies are worrying, but a close look at the data show that the risk of death from COVID-19 if you have T1D is mainly increased in older people – who we already know are at higher risk of worse outcomes of COVID-19. The risk for younger people with T1D is very low – there were almost no deaths in people with T1D under 40, and no deaths in people with T1D under 20.”  

The new findings also show that high HbA1c (>10%), high BMI (>30), and social deprivation all increase risk of death from COVID-19 in people with T1D, as does having a history of certain complications. 

“It is important to keep in mind that these are UK statistics, and we don’t have any data like this from Canada. COVID-19 has had a greater impact in the UK than in Canada, including on their healthcare system. It’s also emerging that outcomes of COVID-19 in people with diabetes might differ in different countries.”

The overall risk of dying from coronavirus – for those living with or without diabetes – is very low. People with T1D are not at higher risk of becoming infected with the coronavirus, but may be at higher risk of complications if they do become infected, especially if they are older or have other risk factors. 

“We continue to urge people with T1D – especially people over age 65 or those that live with them – to take every precaution to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 by closely following public health guidance, and managing their diabetes as best they can.”

In these challenging times, JDRF is doing all it can to help people of all ages with T1D stay informed and safe. If you have concerns about your health or your risk of COVID-19, it’s best to speak to your healthcare team.

See JDRF’s information page on coronavirus and type 1 diabetes.

See more details about the NHS’s new statistical data here. 

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