Is There a Link Between COVID-19 and Rheumatoid Arthritis?

People with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) may be more at risk for contracting COVID-19 compared to others. If those with RA develop COVID-19, they may be at higher risk for developing severe symptoms and additional complications. Treatment options for RA may also affect the immune system, increasing the risk further. It’s important to check with a Fallbrook arthritis doctor before abruptly stopping any treatments for RA, as this may lead to a flare up.

The COVID-19 virus is highly infectious and spreads through respiratory droplets in the air and people with autoimmune diseases like RA are more likely to get infections, including COVID-19.

Severe Complications of COVID-19

RA can cause complications involving the heart and lungs. Since COVID-19 is a respiratory disease, people with heart and lung issues are more likely to have serious symptoms, too.

The following factors may increase your chances of developing more severe symptoms of COVID-19. That’s why it is so important to stay on top of your RA treatments, eat right, and go for regular physicals and check-ups:

• Adult age 60+

• Have other medical conditions, like type 2 diabetes or obesity

• Have severe, unmanaged RA

• Have been previously hospitalized with a respiratory infection

• Taking drugs for RA called immunosuppressants

Examples of immunosuppressants include some of the drugs in these categories:

• Corticosteroids

• Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs)

• Biologics, biosimilars

Protecting Yourself From COVID

Since some RA medications like immunosuppressants suppress the immune system, you might wonder whether you should stop taking them to protect against COVID-19. Never stop taking medication without consulting with an experienced RA doctor. Keep taking your medications as directed as stopping could cause serious complications, which require even more medication.

Scientists are still studying the link between COVID-19 and RA. However, infections are a known trigger of RA flares when symptoms increase in severity. If you develop COVID-19, the infection may cause a flare. It can also be emotionally taxing to cope with and the stress can also worsen RA symptoms.

If you have RA, be sure to take extra steps to protect against COVID-19. You may have a higher risk for getting the virus or developing severe symptoms if you do develop COVID-19. This is especially true if you’re older or have other medical issues.

Follow the general rules for COVID-19 prevention and consider the following these steps as extra precaution:

• Ask your doctor for a refill if you’re due or almost due

• Ask your doctor for a 90-day supply instead of the usual 30 days

• Contact other pharmacies if your usual location is out of stock

What to Do if You Get Sick

Most cases of COVID-19 are mild. So you may be able to get better at home. But there are certain symptoms to watch out for. Call your doctor or 911 immediately if you show signs of the following:

• A really hard time breathing

• Constant chest pain or pressure

• A new kind of confusion

• A blue tint to your lips and face

If you need to speak to a rheumatoid arthritis doctor near Riverside about your RA and COVID, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment.