Ask the Experts
I have rheumatoid arthritis and would like to know what risks are involved if I were to get sick with the coronavirus (COVID-19). Am I more likely to get COVID-19 if I have rheumatoid arthritis? What can I expect?
There’s still a lot we don’t know about COVID-19, but generally speaking, people with higher disease activity of autoimmune or inflammatory arthritis tend to be at a higher risk of infections because of immune dysregulation.
The main concern for complications in people with autoimmune disease who become sick with the seasonal flu or COVID-19 is for secondary bacterial infections to occur after the viral infection.
It is not currently known whether taking immunosuppressant drugs increases your risk of catching COVID-19. But in general, drugs that treat autoimmune and inflammatory arthritis such as biologics and corticosteroids may contribute to a higher risk of severe viral infection.
If you have been exposed to COVID-19 and are experiencing any flu-like symptoms, you need to contact your doctor or rheumatologist right away for medical advice and let them know if you are taking any immune-suppressing drugs.
Do not stop or change the dosage of your arthritis medication without your doctor’s recommendation.
Ask your doctor for the COVID-19 vaccine.
People who are at risk for COVID-19
Additionally, if you have other chronic health conditions, you could be at a higher risk for severe illness with COVID-19.
Those who are at most risk due to complications of COVID-19 include:
- People over the age of 65
- People who live in an assisted living facility
- People with chronic lung disease (COPD or asthma)
- People who are severely obese
- People who are immunocompromised (for example, undergoing cancer treatment)
- People with HIV
- People with uncontrolled medical conditions such as diabetes, renal failure, liver disease
Telltale coronavirus COVID-19 symptoms
Symptoms of COVID-19 tend to appear within 2 to 14 days of exposure and include the following:
- Shortness of breath
- Emergency signs of COVID-19
Call your doctor if you have the above symptoms for further medical assistance.
Contact your healthcare provider immediately if you have the following:
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion or inability to arouse
- Bluish lips or face
How to protect yourself from coronavirus COVID-19
- Stay home
- Avoided crowded places
- Wash your hands often
- Avoid close contact with others who are sick (give yourself 6 feet of space)
- Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces in your home
- Avoid traveling by plane or cruise
We currently have vaccines for coronavirus COVID-19. Contact your healthcare provider if you have any concerning symptoms.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "Coronavirus Disease 2019."
United States. Arthritis Foundation. "Coronavirus and Arthritis."