CHENNAI: With diabetes becoming the single largest comorbid condition contributing to Covid deaths in Tamil Nadu, experts believe awareness, public health intervention and better management of the lifestyle disease are need of the hour.
In Tamil Nadu, at least 50 per cent of the patients who succumbed to Covid, also had diabetes. Dr Ashwin Karuppan V, Consultant -Internal Medicine, Critical Care and Diabetology at Gleneagles Global Hospital, says the risk of contracting an infection is 50 per cent higher for diabetics. “Diabetes compromises one’s immune system,’’ he said.
Karuppan says that people must be aware of the symptoms of diabetes. “Increased thirst, weight gain, unexpected tiredness, excess sweating or extensive weight loss could be early signs of diabetes. People with these symptoms should consult a doctor and get their sugar levels tested,’’ he said.
He adds that stress-induced hyperglycemia (high blood sugar levels) leads to uncontrolled diabetes and hampers the capacity of a person to fight infections. “It is ideal for everyone to check blood sugar levels twice a year,’’ he says.
Worryingly, there have even been instances of diabetics in their 30s and 40s dying of Covid. Experts say there must be awareness from a young age as obese children and teenagers turn out to be obese adults. Dr Ganesh R, specialist in General Pediatrics and Pediatric Metabolic Disorders at Rainbow Children’s Hospital, blames popularity of fast food, sedentary lifestyle and lack of physical activities for obesity in society.
“Teaching children of the link between obesity and diabetes from a young age at school will create awareness,’’ says Ganesh, adding that an awareness on lifestyle diseases can help in prevention too. He further says parents should ensure kids eat healthy food.
In terms of public health intervention, experts say making sugar-level checks mandatory, may help in early detection of diabetes. Former Director of Public Health Dr K Kolandasamy says that the public health system gives importance mostly to newly-emerging diseases and finding a cure for it, but a larger focus is necessary on controlling non-communicable diseases like diabetes and hypertension. “Earlier, prevention and control of infection, along with care of mothers and children, were the two domains of the health system. Now, diseases like diabetes and hypertension have emerged as a third domain,’’ Kolandasamy said. He added that early intervention can prevent sugar levels from spiralling into uncontrolled diabetes.