Rates of newly diagnosed diabetes, high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol were higher in the 90 days after COVID infection than in the period before, according to a study of nearly 24,000 patients during the period of omicron dominance by researchers at Cedars- Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles Angeles, and vaccination appeared to help reduce these risks.
Omicron has been seen as a milder version of COVID compared to previous strains, leading to lower hospitalization and death rates than delta and the strain that first emerged in China in the early 2020s. sweep the world in late 2021, the vast majority of US infections have been attributed to the variant and its progeny, reinforcing the importance of watching for diabetes in people recovering from COVID.
“Most people should be screened for diabetes by age 35,” said Alan Kwan, a cardiologist at Cedars-Sinai who helped write the report published Tuesday in the JAMA Network Open. “And they should be screened every three years.”
First seen primarily as a respiratory illness, COVID has since shown that it harms some patients in a variety of ways that can last for years after infection. Diabetes, which occurs when the body loses the ability to regulate blood sugar levels, can damage tissues in the heart, kidneys and eyes.
During the omicron era, new diagnoses of diabetes were nearly three times more common among unvaccinated people after infection than during the pre-infection period. High blood pressure, cholesterol and high levels of other blood fats were nearly twice as common after infection among the unvaccinated. Among vaccinated people who caught COVID, the risk of diabetes remained roughly the same before and after infection, while the risk of other illnesses declined.
The link between COVID and diabetes, while still poorly understood, has been noted since the start of the pandemic. Research is needed to understand how these conditions develop, who is at risk, and the role of vaccination in prevention, Kwan said.
“As we move into the next phase of COVID, we still need to research the impact of multiple infections, multiple vaccinations, and how vaccines mixed with infections affect risk,” he said.
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