SAN ANTONIO – With the coronavirus pandemic being unpredictable as far as how long it will last, a UT Health San Antonio doctor is encouraging people with diabetes to have a plan in place.
Dr. Carolina Solis said 80% of patients undergoing dialysis are dealing with complications that come from poorly controlled diabetes for a long period.
“During this time, they are not at more risk of getting COVID-19, but if they get it, the outcome is worse,” Solis said. “There is data that has shown, especially from the population in China, that patients, for example, with diabetes can have worst outcomes, and there is a higher risk of hospitalization, getting severely ill or death.”
She said, understandably, people in the vulnerable community are going through a stressful time.
“There is a financial stress, there is a physical stress and having to go to those clinics to spend three to four hours on their treatments,” Solis said. “They have multiple medications to manage. With your peers and family, you have to stay strong. You have to stay positive. This too will pass.”
Vanessa Lopez, who has type 2 diabetes and is undergoing dialysis, agrees that the pandemic has been overwhelming for her.
“Everything is just hectic trying to keep up with -- groceries in the house and managing taking my medication,” Lopez said. “When this coronavirus came out, my anxiety level just skyrocketed.”
She said her fear and anxiety does discourage her from wanting to continue her treatments.
“But then, I think about my kids I have and my husband, and I tell myself these are my living reasons to want to fight to be here,” Lopez said. “When I just heard about the lady who passed from the coronavirus, it gave me a wake up call, and I realized I need to take it seriously.”
She said, to help with her anxiety, she has been seeing a counselor.
“Just to talk about how I’m doing and what is going on,” Lopez said. “It has been helping me a lot. I highly recommend if anyone is going through something like this, talk to someone because mental illness is real and I think mental health is very important.”
Lopez said she is constantly following the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She said she is always washing and sanitizing her hands and her home. She said she avoids groups of people, especially those who are ill. She also said she keeps her children informed on what is taking place.
Solis said that is very important to do and provided more tips for people with diabetes.
“Glucose control is key to the patients staying in good health,” Solis said. It is really important that all of these patients have a two- to three-month supply of all of their medications, supplies, insulin and things like that.”
She said you should not change your daily routine.
“As long as you keep your social distancing, you should go out and should exercise and keep a balanced diet,” Solis said. “You do not need special nutritional supplements during this time.”
Solis said you should maintain your medications closely.
“You should not stop or modify your medications without the recommendation of a doctor," she said.
Solis said UT Health San Antonio has also take extra measures to keep patients safe by transitioning to appointments done by phone or video conference.
“They don’t have to come to the clinics,” Solis said. “They don’t have to be close to a large group of people. We can still take good care of them regarding their medical condition.”
She also encourages those less vulnerable to be aware of the impact they could have on their family members with diabetes or those needing dialysis.
“Remember, we can bring the disease home,” Solis said. “Family members, remember social distancing and hand washing and all measures to keep our loved ones safe.”
Lopez said she has a 90-day supply of her medication and the insulin she needs. She encourages others in her same shoes to be proactive during this pandemic.
“I do worry about the elderly because they can’t just pick up and leave and go get the medicine they need so hopefully if you have a family member like that, be sure to help them,” Lopez said. “Keep in touch with your doctors. Let them know if you are running late on your meds. Check with your insurance. Being proactive will help you plan for the future, and of course, even though this can be overwhelming, understand that there are people who care about you and will be there to listen.