Arthritis and coronavirus: All you need to know

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New Delhi, April 13 (IANS) Older people are more prone to novel Covid-19, owing to their underlying health conditions which weaken their body immunity with age. Arthritis is one of the most common health problems that comes with age and though arthritis can be immune-related (Rheumatoid arthritis) or non-immune-related (osteoarthritis), patients should take utmost precautions to reduce the risk of infection during this pandemic.

Vipul Jain, Chief Executive Officer, Advancells answers important questions regarding healthcare management for arthritis patients in times of Covid-19.

Q. Is arthritis a major risk factor for Covid-19?

Jain: When it comes to Covid-19, arthritis may not be on the frontline as cardiovascular risks or metabolic disorders in the category of underlying health conditions, but a higher percentage of the older patients who are more prone to coronavirus infection, are suffering from arthritis. Arthritis and immune dysfunction go a long way. Pain and inflammation in arthritis can trigger immune system to function in an autoimmune manner by harming one’s own body and conversely, the immune system can also trigger autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis. Thus severe arthritis can damage the body from within and pave an easier path of coronavirus to attack.

Q. Are patients with autoimmune or inflammatory arthritis more prone to the virus?

Jain: In general, people with inflammatory arthritis with severe conditions seem to have an increased risk of coronavirus infections due to higher levels of immune deregulation. Arthritis experts emphasize that one of the main concerns for people with autoimmune disease is due to the immunosuppressive drugs that they have been prescribed by their doctors. It is difficult for doctors to work around the effects of immunosuppressive drugs in case of treating coronavirus infections.

Q. How do immunosuppressive drugs risk Covid-19?

Jain: Although it is not intrinsically known whether taking immunosuppressant drugs can further risk the infection of Covid-19, previous research suggests that some of the drugs used to treat autoimmune and inflammatory types of arthritis may contribute to higher risk or severity of viral infection. The concern with immune suppression in the body is that without a triggered immune system, the virus replication is more unchecked and could replicate more freely, causing more severe disease condition. Therefore, it is very important to let the doctor know regarding your medications one is already taking, if you find flu-like symptoms during this Covid-19 outbreak.

Q. Is there an alternative to NSAIDs for arthritis in times of Covid-19?

Jain: Immunosuppressive drugs like NSAIDs (Non-steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) can be continued for arthritis patients, after a thorough consultation with the doctor in case no symptoms of Covid-19 are suspected. Although, no direct confirmation has been reported against the use of NSAIDs for aged patients with arthritis in these times of coronavirus outbreak, but it is futile to take any risk regarding this without discussing with the appropriate medical personnel.

So, is there an alternative? Yes, the alternative is to go for immune-modulation instead of immune-suppression. And that is where stem cells come into the picture. Regenerative medicine treatment of arthritis can help one overcome the issue of immune-suppression and also support the body immune system to fight against viral infections.

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