ORLANDO, Fla. – Orlando Pediatrician Dr. Candice Jones has been treating kids and teens throughout the coronavirus pandemic. She said parents ask her all the time about the long-term effects of the COVID vaccine, which leads her to explain that the COVID infection also has long term effects. New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report shows a link between the COVID-19 infection and diabetes.
“We know that it can attack certain areas of the brain, therefore the loss of taste and smell. And so it can also, we believe the mechanism here is that it can infect and cause damage to the pancreas which is responsible or linked to the onset of diabetes if there is damage,” Jones said.
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Jones said data from the CDC study included patients with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. With Type 1, diabetes patients can experience diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), which can be deadly.
“These patients often have to go into the ICU and receive insulin drips. The pancreas is pretty much destroyed, and it doesn’t make insulin so that it can take glucose into our cells,” Jones said.
“Those patients can be in a coma, they can die, and so it’s pretty severe and pretty sudden,” she added.
Orlando native and diabetes advocate Christina Martin was diagnosed with Type 1 when she was 13.
“The hardest part for me and for my family was when I asked the doctor if there was a cure and the doctor said no, and if you don’t take care of this, this is something that you could die from,” Martin said.
She started the Type Zero Foundation in Central Florida to provide support for kids and teens dealing with the diagnosis.
“If you look at a kid who’s been diagnosed with diabetes, you’ll see that they are like an adult, in a little kid’s body,” Martin said.
Jones cautions parents to watch for symptoms, including frequent urination, increased thirst, hunger, but losing weight, nausea, vomiting and fatigue, which she says may be confused with “long COVID” symptoms.
“There are tests, simple tests even in the office in the outpatient setting, like with me, that we can test the blood sugar levels,” Jones said.
She says parents should continue to take precautions to protect their children from contracting COVID, including vaccination if eligible.
“So we know kids can get long COVID. We know kids have risk of MISC, multi-system inflammatory syndrome, in kids with COVID-19 infection. And now we see that kids have an increased risk for diabetes after COVID-19 infection,” Jones said.