Impact of viral infections on diabetics

Dr Tejal Lathia, a consultant endocrinologist at Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi shares how viral fever can have an impact on diabetes

Impact of viral infections on diabetics
Image Source: Google

There is an intricate relationship between the viruses and diabetes. A virus is a microscopic organism, which leads to commonly occurring diseases like cold, cough, diarrhoea, and also, diseases like dengue as well. Viral infections are common in young children and the elderly. There are very few medicines that work in viral infections.

Diabetes mellitus is the inability of the beta cells of the pancreas to produce adequate Insulin hormone. Insulin hormone is required to control blood sugar levels. Viral infections are like a double-edged sword.

Patients with diabetes mellitus have an impaired immune system. The immune system protects the body and helps it to fight infections – viral, bacterial, and fungal.

Therefore, diabetic patients are more likely to develop serious complications, as their body is unable to protect itself. This is usually seen in elderly or long-standing diabetics. Commonly, influenza, dengue, and such viruses can be fatal for elderly people who are diabetic.


  • Some viruses can induce diabetes like enteroviruses (Coxsackie B Virus), mumps virus, rotavirus and cytomegalovirus.
  • These viruses precipitate an autoimmune response, where the body’s own immune system attacks the pancreas.
  • The immune cells destroy the native insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. The body is no longer able to produce the adequate amount of insulin to control blood glucose, and diabetes mellitus is diagnosed.
  • This usually results in type-1 diabetes mellitus, and the patient becomes insulin dependent for life.

Disease and treatment

Influenza virus is the most notorious, and yearly vaccination is recommended for diabetic patients. Influenza can cause pneumonia, especially, amongst those with pre-existing lung conditions, ear infections, heart and brain infections (myocarditis and encephalitis).

Another common association is with hepatitis viruses (associated with liver problems and jaundice). Patients with diabetes are 3.5 times more likely to develop hepatitis infections, than those without diabetes; and hepatitis B vaccination is also recommended for diabetic patients. These vaccinations can help prevent mortality (death) and morbidity (illness) in diabetic patients.