Does COVID-19 Make Rheumatoid Arthritis Worse?

Reviewed on 2/24/2021

How Does COVID-19 Affect Rheumatoid Arthritis?

The deadly COVID-19 coronavirus can trigger symptoms in people with rheumatoid arthritis. COVID-19 itself may be more severe in people who have rheumatoid arthritis as it is an autoimmune disease.
The deadly COVID-19 coronavirus can trigger symptoms in people with rheumatoid arthritis. COVID-19 itself may be more severe in people who have rheumatoid arthritis as it is an autoimmune disease.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, which can increase the risk of getting certain infections, including COVID-19. 

Respiratory viral infections such as COVID-19 may trigger rheumatoid arthritis symptoms in some patients. 

On the flip side, because of the reduced function of the immune system in rheumatoid arthritis and because some medications used to treat RA affect the immune system, symptoms of COVID-19 may be worse in RA patients. 

What Is COVID-19?

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.

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

What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

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.

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

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Reviewed on 2/24/2021
References
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/rheumatoid-arthritis-symptoms-and-diagnosis-beyond-the-basics

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

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