Almost a fifth of coronavirus-related deaths in Scottish hospitals have been diabetics, according to new figures.
The statistics have sparked calls for protection and guidelines for those with the condition as lockdown restrictions begin to ease.
It has emerged that diabetics made up 30% of fatalities in hospitals in England.
The Scottish government said it kept all clinical guidance under review and worked with a diabetes adviser.
Figures obtained by the PA news agency from the National Records of Scotland show that 554 of those who died with Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificates up to May 24 also had diabetes.
That is almost 15% of the 3,779 total coronavirus deaths at that time.
Out of the 1,760 people who died in hospital with the virus, 341 (19%) were diabetics.
Angela Mitchell, national director at Diabetes Scotland, said: “The recent statistics underline the urgent need to ensure people with diabetes are protected and supported, especially as lockdown measures are eased.
“There must be assurances that people with diabetes should not be put in a situation that puts them at risk at work.
“Employers must put measures in place to keep people with diabetes safe, either by supporting people to work at home or, where this is not possible, by putting people with diabetes on furlough or by putting measures in place to allow stringent social distancing for those key workers who absolutely must be at work.
“We need to make sure that the new government workplace guidelines work for people with diabetes.”
The figures also show that 10% of people who died in care homes had the condition – 175 out of 1,749 – and diabetics made up 14% of those who died at home – 38 out of 264.
Both type one and type two diabetics are included in the numbers, without a breakdown.
The most recent Scottish Diabetic Survey suggest there were more than 304,000 people with the condition in Scotland in 2018, making up 5.6% of the population.
A Scottish government spokesman said: “We recognise the challenges faced on a daily basis by people living with diabetes.
“Specific support programmes are in place for people living with Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes.
“We keep all clinical guidance under review and continue to work with our advisors – including a specific diabetes speciality advisor.
“If anyone with diabetes has any concerns about their condition, they should contact their GP or their diabetes clinical team.
“They will be able to provide specific advice and support based on their individual circumstances.”
Diabetics are not included in the list of people at highest risk who should shield at home, although some may be advised to shield if they are at significant risk due to a combination of health factors.
There is a helpline and online advice which people with diabetes can use to help manage their condition during the coronavirus outbreak.
High blood pressure and obesity risks
Someone might have underlying health conditions, such as diabetes, and still be very fit and only experience mild symptoms if they catch coronavirus.
Research suggests the threat for those under 40 with type 1 (insulin-dependent) or type 2 diabetes is very low.
Some people may have other risk factors – such as heart disease or high blood pressure and obesity as well as diabetes – which would put them at much higher risk of complications.
Experts say age remains the strongest risk factor for becoming severely or fatally ill with coronavirus.
What are type 1 and type 2 diabetes?
Diabetes is a long-term condition that causes a person’s blood sugar level to become too high.
In the UK, about 90% of all adults with diabetes have type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 can often be prevented by losing weight, eating healthily and being active.
Type 1, on the other hand, is not preventable – it just happens, often starting in childhood, and scientists still can’t explain why.
Doctors say if you are concerned about your diabetes during the coronavirus pandemic:
- Contact your GP practice or diabetes team
- If you have diabetes and have been contacted by your specialist eye or foot care team, please go to your appointments to receive treatment to avoid these problems getting worse. Clinics are taking extra protective measures to keep people safe
- The 4Ts – toilet, thirsty, tired and thinner – are signs of a life-threatening diabetic emergency, diabetic ketoacidosis or DKA. If you recognise these signs, seek urgent medical advice from your GP Practice (or 111 out of hours); if you already have diabetes, contact your diabetes team; or if you feel very unwell, call 999
- If you have diabetes and see a cut or blister on your foot, it may be a sign of a foot ulcer. Call your GP practice to get it checked as soon as possible. If you do have an ulcer or other serious foot problem, you will be referred to see a specialist urgently
- If you are experiencing a serious or life-threatening emergency – call 999