Diabetes as a Comorbidity for COVID-19
Here I sit, at home, waiting for my COVID-19 swab test result. The result is to be available in the next 24-48 hours. While I wait, I ruminate. How did I get here? Well, to begin with, I have worked in close contact with the public during all of COVID-19. I work in people’s homes. That is my job. I am an essential front line worker.
My test for COVID-19
Before I can go out in the community, I must submit to my employer my online screen each day that I work (which for me is 5 days a week). Then I must screen the family in the home before I enter. If all members have no symptoms, then I enter in a mask and gloves. They must also wear masks if they are part of why I am visiting. So how did I end up waiting for a swab result? Simple. I failed the screening test. So that means anyone that was in close contact with me was placed in self-isolation for 14 days until my test result comes back negative. The symptoms I had were common symptoms you can get at any time, but to keep everyone safe my employer takes no chances. “Off you go, get tested.”
Type 2 diabetes and COVID-19
Until the coronavirus hit the world in a way we have never seen before, I never gave a lot of thought to the fact that I have type 2 diabetes in relation to another disease. As we work our way through all the biological understandings with it, I found myself worrying more than just about the virus itself. So now as I’m thinking about this, it raises more concerns for me. I have comorbidities. What is a comorbidity? Simply put:
“The simultaneous presence of two or more diseases or medical conditions in a patient.”1
Comorbidities concerns with COVID-19
I am a person living with type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes often creates anxiety due to the nature of the disease. I don’t have an official diagnosis but, yes, I have anxiety related to my diabetes. I will hazard a guess that many folks with diabetes also have anxiety, maybe even depression related to the disease itself. I also have asthma. So in light of COVID-19 being the main focus of concern, I have 2 official comorbidities and 1 unofficial one.
What this means is I have a couple of strikes against me: my comorbidities. Ruminating further, COVID-19 is a respiratory disease. When breathing is compromised, in the worst-case scenario of COVID-19, the heart is also affected because of all the work the lungs are doing, trying to ensure there is enough oxygen available for the heart to pump out. The heart is pumping harder to get the oxygen to the other vital organs which are in short supply because of how the virus has affected the lungs. I’m asthmatic so it's obvious even with well-controlled asthma that this increases the risk that if I do get COVID-19, my body may not do well. Strike one.
Type 2 diabetes
Add in diabetes. Diabetes significantly affects the blood vessels, damage done by high blood sugars. Diabetes affects the blood vessels of the lungs, the kidneys, the liver, the pancreas, the brain, the eyes, and of course, the heart. And diabetes is progressive so damage, to whatever degree, has potentially already been done to the lungs and heart before ever being exposed to COVID-19. Now the lungs and heart are doubly affected. I have lived with diabetes for 15 plus years. My sugars are pretty well-controlled but that’s a long time living with progressive disease. Strike two.
Over 60 years old
Add the aging piece, although healthy aging, to the comorbidities I have. Now, I ruminate further. I am 61 years old. Normally, I would say 61 years young but in the context of COVID-19, I will say old. I am not into doom and gloom but much as I hate to admit it, as you age, you have the capacity for diminished resiliency against disease. Our bodies change, slow down, as we age. We are more likely to see changes in our health, hopefully, minor ones.
COVID-19 test anxiety
So as I wait for my test result to come back, I have fear. I would have less fear if I were just worried about COVID-19 on it’s own. I have taken all the necessary precautions. I have worn a mask as recommended. I have doffed my mask in the proper way. I have practiced good hand hygiene. I have practiced social distancing. I have done everything right. But I still have fear because of the things I can’t control that put me at greater risk.
I suspect my anxiety will remain high though, related to both diabetes and COVID-19 risk. If I can’t control it, it may eventually get added as another comorbidity. That’s scary.
So this is how I got here. I just got word my COVID-19 test is negative. But I know I’m still at high risk while COVID-19 is present. I continue to do what I can to keep my blood sugars healthy. I take my asthma medications. And I continue to age, healthfully. And I will hope for the best.
How stressed out do you feel today?