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Does COVID-19 cause diabetes?

A smiling man lies on his stomach in a field of dandelions. Three smiling kids sit on his back.

COVID-19 may raise your risk for diabetes, according to new research. Studies have found an increased risk for both children and adults.

COVID-19 and adult diabetes

A recent study in The Lancet found an increased risk for type 2 diabetes after COVID-19. The researchers looked at Veterans Administration (VA) records of more than 180,000 people who had COVID-19 and compared them to people who hadn't had the virus. They also compared them to records from before the start of the pandemic.

Here's what they found:

  • People who'd had COVID-19 were about 40% more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes in the next year.
  • 99% of people diagnosed with diabetes had type 2 diabetes. That is the most common kind of diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • The risk for diabetes was higher among people who were hospitalized with COVID-19 than in people with mild cases.
  • The risk for diabetes was higher among people with other risk factors for diabetes, such as obesity.
  • Even people whose cases were mild and who did not have risk factors for diabetes were more likely to have diabetes after COVID-19.

COVID-19 and diabetes in kids

Children may also have a higher risk of diabetes after COVID-19, according to a report from CDC.

CDC researchers looked at two sets of insurance records for children under age 18 who had COVID-19. They studied records of more than 400,000 kids who had COVID-19 in the HealthVerity insurance database. They also looked at more than 80,000 kids who had COVID-19 in the IQVIA insurance database. They compared them to similar groups who did not have COVID-19. They also compared them to records of children who had other respiratory viruses before the pandemic.

The researchers found that:

  • In the HealthVerity group, kids who had COVID-19 were 31% more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than kids who didn't get the coronavirus.
  • In the IQVIA group, the risk of developing diabetes was 166% higher among kids who had had COVID-19, compared to kids who did not.
  • Kids who had COVID-19 were 116% more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than kids who had other respiratory infections before the pandemic.

This study did not separate type 1 and type 2 diabetes. And the two sets of data led to different results. But both sets found an increased risk after a COVID-19 infection.

There is still more to learn about how COVID-19 might raise the risk for diabetes. And we don't yet know if the effect is temporary. Scientists are continuing to study the issue.

Consider a screening

Many people with diabetes don't know they have it, according to CDC. But it can still harm your health.

That's why screening for type 2 diabetes is so important. This tool can help you decide if you should be screened. And if you or your child has had COVID-19, your provider can help you understand your risk—and how you can lower it.

Reviewed 5/16/2022

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