FRIDAY, Dec.4, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- COVID-19 patients with abnormally high blood sugar are at increased risk for serious illness and death, even if they don't have diabetes, new research shows.
The study included more than 11,300 non-critically ill adults with COVID-19 who were hospitalized in Spain between March and the end of May 2020. Of those, 19% were previously diagnosed with diabetes.
In all, one in five patients died in the hospital, the researchers reported.
Compared to those with normal blood sugar levels, patients with abnormally high levels were more than twice as likely to die from COVID-19 (about 41% versus 16%), more likely to be admitted to intensive care and more likely to need a ventilator, the findings showed.
There were no differences in death rates between patients with diabetes and those without the disease, according to the report published online recently in the journal Annals of Medicine.
The study is the largest of its kind to date, according to the authors, and adds to evidence that high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) is linked to a higher risk of death among COVID-19 patients, independent of diabetes.
The researchers noted that most patients in the study didn't have their average blood sugar levels checked over a period of time, meaning that some who were believed to be non-diabetic may have had the disease.
Hyperglycemia is common in people with diabetes, but illness or injury can trigger it others, the study authors noted in a journal news release.
"Screening for hyperglycemia in patients without diabetes and early treatment should be mandatory in the management of patients hospitalized with COVID-19," said study coordinator Dr. Francisco Javier Carrasco-Sánchez, an internal medicine physician at Juan Ramon Jimenez University Hospital in Huelva, Spain.
"Admission hyperglycemia should not be overlooked, but rather detected and appropriately treated to improve the outcomes of COVID-19 patients with and without diabetes," he added.
It's not known why high blood sugar is associated with a higher risk of death in COVID-19 patients. Hyperglycemia may be another "inflammatory bystander" or it could have a more direct effect on how COVID-19 leads to complications and death, the researchers said.
For more on blood sugar, go to the American Diabetes Association.
SOURCE: Annals of Medicine, news release, Nov. 23, 2020