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Can COVID cause diabetes?

October 1, 2021

Ask the doctors

Q. I have a friend who suddenly developed diabetes following her recovery from a COVID infection. Could the virus have caused her condition?

A. It’s possible. Experts have found that the virus that causes COVID-19 can directly attack insulin-producing structures in the pancreas. According to the NIH director’s blog, researchers found that the virus, called SARS-CoV-2, affects the pancreas in three different ways. First, it may directly damage pancreatic beta cells, the ones that produce insulin, reducing their ability to make enough insulin to keep blood sugars controlled. Second, as the virus replicates in the pancreas, it also can damage the cells that directly surround the beta cells, which are needed for proper insulin release. Third, the virus also seems to reprogram surviving cells, making them malfunction, which can wreak havoc with blood sugar regulation.

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