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Rheumatoid arthritis

COVID-19 and rheumatoid arthritis: Risks and precautions

People with autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), may be more likely to experience infections. Therefore, those with RA who develop COVID-19 may be at higher risk for developing severe symptoms and additional complications.

FDA NOTICEThe FDA have removed the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine for the treatment of COVID-19. Based on a review of the latest research, the FDA determined that these drugs are not likely to be an effective treatment for COVID-19 and that the risks of using them for this purpose might outweigh any benefits.

Treatment options for RA may also affect the immune system, increasing the risk further. However, in most cases, doctors do not recommend abruptly stopping any treatments for RA, as this may lead to a flare.

The best way to reduce the risk of developing COVID-19 is by staying home (shelter-in-place), and maintaining consistent infection prevention habits to inhibit the transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease.

Keep reading to learn more about how COVID-19 may affect a person with RA, including what current research says, the risks, and the precautions people should take.

How does COVID-19 affect people with RA?

a woman holding her wrist as she has pain there from rheumatoid arthritis which might be made worse if she has covid 19
As a person with RA has an impaired immune system, they may be at higher risk of developing COVID-19.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system attacks the lining of the joints. Autoimmune conditions, such as RA, compromise the immune system, in varying degrees of severity.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and other expert bodies are still investigating the impact of the novel coronavirus on people with preexisting conditions.

Some research published in Autoimmunity Reviews suggests that people with RA have an increased risk of contracting the virus due to their impaired immune system. Factors that can affect the vulnerability of someone with RA include medication, age, and other health conditions.

Treatments for RA, including corticosteroids and drugs that modify or suppress the immune system, may increase the risk of infection.

The British Society for Rheumatology created a risk scoring guide chart to clarify the potential level of risk that someone with RA may be at.

Is COVID-19 dangerous for people with RA?

According to the COVID-19 Global Rheumatology Alliance Global Registry, which supplies live-time information regarding rheumatic diseases and COVID-19, people with RA may be at higher risk for infection and developing severe symptoms.

This may be truer for people with very high disease activity, people who have trouble controlling their symptoms, or those with other health conditions.

A person with RA who also has other risk factors, such as being over 65, living in a long-term care facility, or having another medical condition, maybe at a higher risk for severe illness.

Additionally, people with RA who take certain drugs, such as immunosuppressant drugs, to control symptoms may be more at risk for infections or complications from those infections.

However, people should not stop, change the dosage of, or take a new medication or supplement without contacting their doctor.

Currently, there is not much formal evidence connecting COVID-19 and RA.

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