A doctor known to some from the popular Channel 5 TV show GPs: Behind Closed Doors has been explaining why COVID-19 might impact people with diabetes more severely.

Speaking to Business Insider, Dr Amir Khan, who has a special interest in type 1 and type 2 diabetes, said the immune system plays a huge part in those with diabetes who develop severe coronavirus symptoms.

The Bradford-based doctor said: “High levels of blood sugar over a long period of time can actually depress your immune system, so it doesn’t respond as quickly to the virus when it enters the body and it has more time to replicate, get down to your lungs, and cause the problems associated with breathing that can lead to needing hospital treatment.”

People with diabetes are being told to stay at home if they can and concentrate on controlling their blood sugar levels in a bid to stay as healthy as they possibly can.

Dr Khan said: “Although the vast majority will suffer mild to moderate symptoms, there is a small proportion that will suffer severe symptoms, and that is higher than those people who don’t have diabetes.”

He also discussed how people who have heart conditions may also experience severe COVID-19 symptoms.

Data released from China, where the virus originated, show that of the first 44,672 diagnosed cases there, people who had cardiovascular diseases had the highest fatality rate, at 10.5 per cent. Other heart conditions include previous heart attacks or strokes.

Dr Khan said: “When the coronavirus enters your body and gets down to your lungs, what it does is stop the lungs effectively passing oxygen through into the blood, and so the heart has to work harder to pump that blood around, which has less oxygen in it. And if you have an underlying heart condition, that will put excess strain on your heart and lead to further complications.”

Despite these findings, it is important to remember that most coronavirus cases are survivable, even among people who also have an underlying health condition.

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