SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - With new evidence emerging, researchers are now trying to figure out if COVID-19 can trigger new cases of diabetes.
In mid-April, Jessica Schexnayder, 28, of Black Mountain Ranch, came down with a cough and fever, and tested positive for COVID-19, nine days after receiving her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
Days later, she was admitted into a hospital with pneumonia, and treated with the antiviral drug Remdesivir, as well as steroids.
“They had to knock out the pneumonia, so they put me on steroids through an IV,” said Schexnayder.
Schexnayder says her oxygen levels dipped to dangerous levels before her condition improved.
Several days into her hospital stay, she received another diagnosis.
“I was diagnosed as a type 2 diabetic,” said Schexnayder, who had no prior history of diabetes. She says she does have a family history of diabetes on both sides of her family.
Doctors told her the steroids had spiked her blood sugar levels, while COVID may have made her more vulnerable.
“My body might not have the ability -- due to my immune-compromised condition -- to regulate my own insulin,” said Schexnayder. “I just felt like, great, another thing added to my list of struggles I'm now encountering.”
Schexnayder's story is not a rare one.
According to a global analysis published in the journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, more than 14% of people hospitalized with severe COVID-19 developed diabetes. The researchers pointed to the possible impact of effects of COVID-19, citing the high doses of insulin that diabetes patients with severe cases require and the complications they often develop.
Dr. Robert Eckel is a former President of Medicine and Science for the American Diabetes Association.
"What we don't know -- and this is possible -- that the virus itself can damage the pancreas and make the pancreas secrete not enough insulin,” said Dr. Eckel.
He says it's also possible many of the apparent new cases were actually undiagnosed cases of diabetes. New studies are now underway looking into whether COVID-19 can trigger diabetes.
As for Schexnayder, she's now back home and coping with lingering COVID symptoms and her diabetes, which requires a daily insulin injection.
She's hoping dietary changes will begin to reverse her diabetes.
“I will do everything to get to a healthy and self-regulating place,” said Schexnayder.
A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to help Schexnayder with medical expenses.