Am I at Risk for COVID-19 if I Have Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Reviewed on 5/4/2021

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease in which the body's joints are primarily affected. Because people with rheumatoid arthritis have an impaired immune system, they may experience worsened COVID-19 symptoms if they become infected.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease in which the body's joints are primarily affected. Because people with rheumatoid arthritis have an impaired immune system, they may experience worsened COVID-19 symptoms if they become infected.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease, in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own tissues. In rheumatoid arthritis, the joints are primarily affected though it can affect other parts of the body. 

COVID-19 is a new type of coronavirus, not previously identified in humans, that caused an outbreak of respiratory illness that became a global pandemic in 2020. COVID-19 is not the same as other coronaviruses that cause mild illness, such as the common cold.

Because rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, patients have an increased risk of getting certain infections, including COVID-19. In addition, because of the reduced function of the immune system in rheumatoid arthritis patients and because some medications used to treat RA affect the immune system, symptoms of COVID-19 may be worse in RA patients.

What Are Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include:

  • Joint pain and stiffness
  • Muscle pain
  • Muscle weakness 
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Weight changes 
  • Respiratory problems 
    • Shortness of breath
    • Dry cough
  • Eye dryness
  • Numbness and tingling in the hands
  • Feeling unwell (malaise) 
  • Skin problems 
    • Rheumatoid nodules, which are painless lumps that appear beneath the skin
  • Inflammation of the tissue around the heart (pericarditis) that can cause chest pain and difficulty breathing
  • Decreased bone density
  • Eye problems
    • Eye redness
    • Pain
    • Vision problems
  • Inflammation of the blood vessels (vasculitis)
  • Sjögren's syndrome, which causes dry eyes and dry mouth

What Are Symptoms of COVID-19?

Symptoms of COVID-19 include:

Symptoms of COVID-19 that require immediate medical attention (call 9-1-1 or go to a hospital’s emergency department) include: 

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • Bluish lips or face
  • New confusion 
  • Inability to wake up or stay awake

QUESTION

The term arthritis refers to stiffness in the joints. See Answer

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Reviewed on 5/4/2021
References
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/rheumatoid-arthritis-symptoms-and-diagnosis-beyond-the-basics?search=rheumatoid%20arthritis&source=search_result&selectedTitle=5~150&usage_type=default&display_rank=5

https://www.the-rheumatologist.org/article/acr-releases-covid-19-clinical-guidance/?singlepage=1

https://arthritis-research.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13075-019-1977-9