What Should I Do If I Have Symptoms of COVID-19?

As the global viral outbreak continues, you may be wondering what special considerations there are for people with diabetes to keep in mind. In particular, what should you do if you begin to experience symptoms consistent with the infection? This article reviews the most common COVID-19 symptoms, discusses potential issues specific to people with diabetes, and provides a guideline of how to respond if you become sick.

Symptoms of COVID-19

Be on the lookout for the following most common symptoms of COVID-19:

  • Fever
  • Coughing (especially dry)
  • Shortness of breath

Other symptoms may include fatigue, body aches, and sore throat, among others.

Special Considerations for People with Diabetes

You may have heard that people with certain medical conditions, including those with diabetes, are considered to be in the high-risk group for developing more serious symptoms of the disease, and have been reported to have a significantly higher mortality rate than those without underlying conditions. While these statistics are both relevant and can be scary, it is also important to keep in mind that your individual risk will vary widely depending on your specific health status, regardless of your diabetes diagnosis. Your age, other related and unrelated health conditions, and blood glucose management profile, all play a role in determining your overall risk. So, while as a whole population, people with diabetes are at higher risk for complications, your individual risk could be much lower than that.

For instance, as per the JDRF, those who have type 1 diabetes are  “not necessarily at higher risk of developing serious complications from the disease. Those at greatest risk are those who have another, or second chronic disease (such as a compromised immune system, heart disease or renal failure).

Talk to your healthcare provider to better understand your individual risk level and recommendations.

Have a Plan of Action If Symptoms Arise

Being adequately prepared ahead of time can help you feel calmer and more empowered if you do get sick. Consider taking the following steps today, if you haven’t already:

  • Take preventative measures. Stay home. Practice social distancing (note: if you already have symptoms, self-isolate!)
  • Wash your hands. Avoid touching your face. Disinfect “high-touch” surfaces regularly.
  • Make sure that your medication refills are up-to-date so that you have the supply you need if you will stay in your home for a long period of time (e.g., at least several weeks). Make sure that you consider supplies used for diabetes management as well as any other medications that you use.
  • Check that you have medications on hand that you would typically use to treat a viral infection, such as a fever-reducing agent, like acetaminophen (Tylenol). Consult with your healthcare provider for advice about their specific recommendations.
  • Have enough food and water in your home in case you stay home for a prolonged period of time (e.g., several weeks).
  • Review the “Sick Day Rules” for people with diabetes. COVID-19 causes mild symptoms in most of the people who are infected. This means most likely, you will be treating your symptoms at home. However, any illness can make blood glucose levels more challenging to manage. It is important to be aware of how illness can affect your management plan and make adjustments as needed, with the help of your healthcare provider, to keep yourself safe during the illness. You can find the standard “Sick Day Rules” as described by the Joslin Diabetes Center here, but discuss your specific recommendations with your healthcare provider.

So, what should you actually do (and not do) if you develop symptoms of COVID-19?

  1. Don’t panic.
  2. Self-isolate. Don’t go to urgent care or the emergency room, unless instructed to do so or you experience serious symptoms (see below). Stay home.
  3. Call your doctor and follow their advice closely.
  4. Keep a close eye on blood sugar levels. Work with your healthcare provider to make adjustments to medications, if needed, to help stay in the target glycemic range as much as possible. Keeping blood glucose levels in check as much as possible can go a long way to helping you avoid complications during any illness.
  5. Manage your specific symptoms (e.g., fever). Ask your healthcare provider for specific at-home treatment advice.
  6. Stay hydrated. This can help you keep your blood sugar levels in the target range and avoid complications.
  7. Be on the lookout for serious symptoms, including those of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), as well as the following “COVID-19 emergency warning signs”:
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion or difficulty waking
  • Blue tint to the skin (on the lips or face, in particular)

If you experience these any of these symptoms, promptly seek medical care. Wear a mask if out in public.

  1. Continue to wash your hands and clean surfaces regularly.
  2. Continue to avoid contact with others (humans and pets).
  3. Do not discontinue isolation until you get the “all clear” from your healthcare provider.

***

For even more detailed information on what to do if you are ill, read these guidelines from the CDC:

What to Do if You’re Sick

Guidelines for At-Risk Populations

Also, learn even more about COVID-19 illness with diabetes from the American Diabetes Association (ADA) here.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Diabetes Eye Screenings: Why They Are Important and Challenging

This content originally appeared on diaTribe. Republished with permission.

By Renza Scibilia and Chris ‘Grumpy Pumper’ Aldred

Regular eye screenings are important for people with diabetes. Learn more about diabetes-related retinopathy screenings from diabetes advocates Renza and Grumpy

What Causes Diabetes-Related Retinopathy?

Diabetes-related retinopathy occurs when many years of high blood sugar levels cause damage to blood vessels in the eye. This damage triggers your body to make more blood vessels – but these new vessels are fragile and easily damaged, which can result in bleeding or scarring in the eye that worsens vision. Fortunately, there are medications available that can improve symptoms. For more background on diabetes-related retinopathy, see here.

There is more to developing a diabetes-related eye condition than just A1C. Time in range also plays a role, as seen by recent research – diaTribe will be updating readers on this in the coming months!  Blood pressure also plays an important role in our risk, as can rapid fluctuations in glucose levels. Family history of eye conditions, such as glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), may increase the risk of diabetes-related eye issues, so knowing and sharing your family history is important when discussing your eyes at screening appointments.

The importance of eye screenings

In diaTribe’s past interview with ophthalmologist (eye doctor) Dr. Ivan Suñer of Memorial Hospital of Tampa, we learned that people with retinopathy often have no noticeable symptoms until they are at high risk for losing their vision. Early detection of diabetes-related retinopathy is crucial to prevent vision loss. Thus, his number one piece of advice was to see a doctor regularly for eye screenings. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that people with diabetes get a comprehensive eye exam every two years if there is no evidence of retinopathy. For those with retinopathy, the ADA recommends an eye exam every year.

Given the importance of eye screenings, Renza and Grumpy – within a few days of each other – both recently tweeted about our upcoming eye screening checks. (Renza has annual visits to her private ophthalmologist as suggested by Australian guidelines; Grumps receives a screening every three to four months to monitor some damage in his left eye.)

Both of us (Renza and Grumpy) are fortunate that we live in countries with national eye screening programs for people with diabetes. (Australia’s program was launched just this year; the UK program has been around for a number of years now.)

In Australia, KeepSight operates as a “recall and reminder” system. People with diabetes register with the program and are sent prompts to make appointments. The frequency of these reminders is individually tailored, determined by how frequently screening checks are required.

In the UK, the Diabetic Eye Screening Program (time for a rename and some #LanguageMatters attention!) is overseen by the National Health Service (NHS). Screening appointments are made for people with diabetes, and follow up letters are sent with the results.

National screening programs work because they offer a coordinated and consistent approach that has the potential to reach a wide number of people. In an ideal world, they capture all people living with diabetes, ensuring screening occurs at the right time, changes to the eyes are identified early, and appropriate treatment is started immediately.

When implemented properly, the results of screening programs can be staggering. Before the UK program was established, diabetes-related eye conditions were the leading cause of preventable blindness in the UK. That is no longer the case.

The challenges of eye screenings

Not many people with diabetes look forward to their eye screenings. And many of us will look for any excuse to put off making or going to our screening appointment. There are a number of reasons for that.

While it may be one of the least invasive checks on our screening list, it can be one of the most disruptive. If pupil dilating drops are required, the rest of the day is often a write-off. Even when the blurred vision goes, we are often left feeling tired or with a headache from the bright light and eye strain caused by the drops.

On top of organizing time off work or school for ourselves, we may need to involve a friend or family member to take us to the appointment. All of these things can make coordination of our appointment difficult and become a reason that we postpone or cancel.

But logistics are only one reason we may decide to put off our appointment. Many of us are anxious about results from screening checks. Diabetes-related complications are often presented to us in such a scary and threatening way that we are frightened to organize and attend appointments. (Renza recently wrote this piece, “Why Scare Tactics Don’t Work in Diabetes” for diaTribe about how her introduction to diabetes-related complications when she was diagnosed with diabetes scared her so much that she was simply unable to face the thought of diabetes screenings.)

And those of us who have missed an appointment or two, or have never been screened before, become worried that we will be “told off” when we do eventually gather the courage to attend.

What works and how can we do better?

  • Making the process of actually having a diabetes eye check as easy and smooth as possible will always mean more uptake. Bringing screening to the people, rather than expecting people to travel long distances, will reduce a significant barrier to keeping up-to-date with screening checks. There are a number of different initiatives that are working toward making screening checks more convenient.
  • Pharmacies are being used in some areas to provide initial screening checks (using a retinal scanning camera), with any necessary follow-up being conducted by specialist eye health care professionals. This works well because it means the initial screening check – which will pick up any changes – is done somewhere convenient and familiar, and without the need for dilating drops. Hopefully this will reduce some of the nervousness people may feel about going to a clinic or hospital setting.
  • Coordinated reminder systems are great! Anything that helps ease the weight of “diabetes administration” is welcome to help with the daily tasks demanded by diabetes.
  • Counselling around the visit would also be helpful for some!

Having any sort of diabetes-related complications screening is never just about the process of attending and completing the screening. Just the thought of, and planning for, the appointment can be distressing for people, especially for those who have had complications presented to them in a scary or threatening manner. Offering counselling before and/or after screening is a great idea to help address some of those anxieties, and provide people with practical tips for coping.

Screening checks are part of the process of managing diabetes-related complications

We’d urge healthcare professionals to acknowledge just how difficult it can be for someone to simply show up for a screening appointment, and commend those that do. A little word of understanding can go a very long way!

As ever, peer support can be hugely beneficial. Whether it be sharing stories about how people manage to navigate anxieties and nervousness about eye screening checks, or how people have dealt with a diagnosis, speaking with others who have walked a similar path can be useful and can help reduce the isolation many people feel.

And finally, most people with diabetes do know the importance of regular complications screening, and that early detection and treatment will likely result in better outcomes. (In Grumps’ case, this early detection has meant that the issues have not progressed for several years and that, to date, no treatments have been required.) But that is not enough. We need to follow messages and campaigns that highlight the importance of screening with advice on how to make the process easier and more comfortable for people with diabetes, while recognizing how difficult it can be. Humanizing the experience of screening, and giving results and follow- up, is all an important part of the story.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

GivingTuesday: Donate for Diabetes

Have you heard of Giving Tuesday, a global generosity movement? Learn more and consider donating to a diabetes organization of your choice.
Source: diabetesdaily.com

Vegetable Magic: Plant-Based Recipes

This content originally appeared on diaTribe. Republished with permission.By Catherine Newman These quick, low-carb plant-based recipes are delicious and nutritious ways to bring more vegetables into your life Full disclosure: I love vegetables. Love, love, love them. Would I rather eat melted cheese with a spoon than a giant bowl of kale? Sure. But vegetables […]
Source: diabetesdaily.com

Proof that Advocacy Matters

This content originally appeared on Diabetes Blog – Happy Medium. Republished with permission.Maybe you read somewhere that there was a hearing held this month by a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce committee, on the issues of insulin affordability.  Maybe you watched the hearing and heard testimony from Christel Marchand […]
Source: diabetesdaily.com

What Do “Healthy” Blood Glucose Levels Really Look Like?

What is normal blood glucose? In children and adults, ideally, blood sugar levels are tightly-regulated to stay in a narrow range that’s optimal for physiological function. What are these levels, and how much of a glucose excursion is “normal”? Notably, there are some transient exceptions to the accepted “normal range”. In particular, women tend to […]
Source: diabetesdaily.com

Dining Out Tips for the Low-Carb Lifestyle

If you are carefully watching your carbohydrate intake, or sticking to a strict low-carbohydrate diet, dining out can present a unique set of challenges. I have been eating low-carb to optimize my type 1 diabetes management for almost four years now and have learned a lot about my best practices as well as pitfalls when […]
Source: diabetesdaily.com

1 2

Search

+