COVID-19, caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, has had wide-ranging impacts on global health since its emergence in late 2019. Among its many effects, there is a notable connection with arthritis, both in terms of how COVID-19 can affect individuals with existing arthritis conditions and how the virus may trigger arthritis-like symptoms in some people.

Individuals with autoimmune forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), psoriatic arthritis, and others, often take immunosuppressive medications to control their condition. Medications like Arava, Enbrel, Rinvoq, Humira, Xeljanz, Skyrizi, Tremfya, Remicade, Cimzia, Simponi, Simponi Aria, Orencia, Cosentyx, Taltz, Otezla, Hevzara, and Actemra are commonly prescribed for these conditions. These drugs work by dampening the immune response to prevent it from attacking the body’s own tissues. However, this suppression of the immune system can potentially increase the risk of infections, including COVID-19.

Patients with autoimmune arthritis face a delicate balance during the pandemic. The suppression of the immune response necessary to control arthritis symptoms might make them more susceptible to severe outcomes if they contract COVID-19. As a result, individuals taking immunosuppressive medications are advised to take extra precautions to avoid exposure to the virus.

Interestingly, COVID-19 itself can lead to symptoms that resemble arthritis. Some patients with COVID-19 have reported experiencing joint pain and swelling, conditions reminiscent of inflammatory arthritis. This reaction is thought to be part of the body’s immune response to the virus. For some, these symptoms are temporary and subside as the infection clears. However, there are reports of individuals developing longer-term joint issues post-COVID-19, sometimes referred to as “long COVID” or post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC).

The interaction between COVID-19 and arthritis highlights the importance of personalized medical care during the pandemic. Patients with autoimmune arthritis are encouraged to maintain communication with their healthcare providers to manage their arthritis effectively while minimizing their risk of COVID-19. This includes discussing the safety of continuing immunosuppressive therapy, the timing of COVID-19 vaccination, and strategies for infection prevention.

Furthermore, the emergence of COVID-19 has underscored the need for ongoing research to better understand the virus’s long-term effects on the body, including its potential to trigger autoimmune responses or contribute to chronic conditions like arthritis. As our understanding of COVID-19 evolves, so too will strategies for managing its impact on individuals with arthritis and other underlying health conditions.