Covid-19 increases risk of autoimmune inflammatory rheumatic diseases

A recent study conducted in South Korea and Japan involving over 22 million adult patients has revealed a potential link between acute Covid-19 infection and a higher risk of developing autoimmune inflammatory rheumatic diseases (AIRD) up to one year after being infected. The study included conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, Sjögren syndrome, and others.

Researchers analyzed data from two national population-based cohort studies in Japan and Korea, consisting of more than 10 million Koreans and 12 million Japanese adults. They found that patients who had a severe Covid-19 infection, even after being vaccinated, could be at a higher risk of developing these conditions.

The study highlighted that the severity of acute Covid-19 was associated with a higher risk for incident AIRD. However, the researchers acknowledged certain limitations, including the fact that their results were based on data before the emergence of the Omicron variant and that some estimates were imprecise.

Three additional studies conducted in 2023 also found an elevated risk of AIRD among individuals who tested positive for Covid-19 compared to those who did not. Autoimmune rheumatic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus, can cause inflammation, swelling, and pain in joints, affecting mainly women in mid to late adulthood.

The study, recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, sheds light on the potential long-term impacts of Covid-19 on autoimmune health. While the findings provide valuable insights, further research is needed to fully understand the relationship between Covid-19 and autoimmune diseases.


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