Diabetes Signs to Watch for If You've Had COVID

Type 2 Diabetes and COVID-19 Risk

Verywell / Nusha Ashjaee

Key Takeaways

  • A new study confirms the link between COVID and new cases of diabetes has persisted through the Omicron variant.
  • The signs of diabetes are the same whether or not you’ve had COVID, which includes frequent infections, increased thirst, and blurry vision.
  • Chronic inflammation from COVID-19 might be the reason for the link with new-onset diabetes.

Since the first year of the pandemic, many studies have reported new cases of diabetes following a COVID-19 infection. A new JAMA Network Open study published last week not only corroborates this link, but also confirms that the risk of post-COVID diabetes has persisted through the Omicron variant.

It’s possible that diabetes after COVID might end up being temporary. A 2022 study found that some individuals who were newly diagnosed with diabetes after COVID returned to normal blood sugar levels or a pre-diabetic state. But managing or reversing diabetes relies on knowing that you have it in the first place. If unchecked, the condition can lead to all sorts of complications, ranging from heart disease to kidney damage.

If you had COVID, learn how to recognize the symptoms of diabetes, especially if you were living with diabetes risk factors before getting infected.

Signs of Diabetes to Watch Out For

The signs of diabetes development are the same for all individuals whether or not they’ve had a COVID-19 infection, Trang Le, MD, an endocrinologist at VCU Health and associate professor in the departments of internal medicine and pediatrics at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, told Verywell. 

Some common diabetes signs include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Blurry vision
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Irritability
  • Frequent infections

“People who are developing diabetes often don’t realize it right away, because the initial symptoms aren’t very specific,” Stuart Campbell Ray, MD, infectious disease specialist and vice chair of medicine for data integrity and analytics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told Verywell.

If you have these symptoms, talk to your healthcare provider about getting your blood sugar tested.

Inflammation Could Link COVID-19 and Diabetes

Diabetes occurs when a person can’t properly use or produce enough insulin to regulate blood sugar levels and generate energy.

“Inflammatory conditions such as infections or other physical stressors can increase insulin resistance, and therefore be associated with developing diabetes,” Le said.

The exact mechanism behind the increased risk of diabetes after a COVID-19 infection isn’t clearly known, but it likely involves many factors like increased inflammation and the use of steroids as treatment, she added. Ray agrees that chronic inflammation from COVID might play a role in diabetes risk.

“It is also possible that individuals who may not have developed diabetes for several years ended up developing diabetes earlier than they would have otherwise due to the inflammatory stress of COVID-19 infection,” Le said.

Vaccination Might Reduce Diabetes Risk

According to the study, diabetes risk after COVID-19 was higher among unvaccinated individuals compared to those who were vaccinated. More studies are needed to be certain, but current data does suggest that vaccination may reduce diabetes risk.

“One explanation for this could be that preventing COVID-19 infection or lessening the severity of the infection, through vaccination, could reduce inflammation and decrease the triggers for developing diabetes,” Le said. 

The study didn’t examine whether COVID-19 vaccination after infection would modify diabetes risk. Le said it could potentially reduce the risk of diabetes if it helps someone avoid COVID reinfection.

How to Prevent Post-COVID Diabetes

The steps that reduce the risk of developing diabetes in general will likely reduce the risk of post-COVID diabetes as well, Le said, including:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Eating nutritious and balanced meals
  • Engaging in physical activity as tolerated
  • Quitting smoking

You can’t change your genes after COVID-19, but you can do general steps to reduce the risk of diabetes, Ray said.

“We don’t have trials to guide COVID-19-specific measures for diabetes prevention,” he said. “For those who haven’t recently had COVID-19 infection or COVID-19 vaccination, vaccination remains a safer way to reduce these risks.”

What This Means For You

Growing evidence suggests that a COVID-19 infection increases diabetes risk. If you had COVID, watch out for the signs of diabetes and reach out to your healthcare provider about getting your blood sugar tested.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  3. Xie Y, Al-Aly Z. Risks and burdens of incident diabetes in long COVID: a cohort study. Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol. 2022;10(5):311-321. doi:10.1016/S2213-8587(22)00044-4

  4. Kwan AC, Ebinger JE, Botting P, et al. Association of COVID-19 vaccination with risk for incident diabetes after COVID-19 infection. JAMA Netw Open. 2023;6(2):e2255965. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.55965

  5. Cromer SJ, Colling C, Schatoff D, et al. Newly diagnosed diabetes vs. pre-existing diabetes upon admission for COVID-19: associated factors, short-term outcomes, and long-term glycemic phenotypes. J Diabetes Complications. 2022;36(4):108145. doi:10.1016/j.jdiacomp.2022.108145

By Carla Delgado
Carla M. Delgado is a health and culture writer based in the Philippines.