COVID-19 Survival Linked to Risk of Autoimmune Diseases

By Alberta Herman

March 20, 2024


Autoimmune diseases are conditions in which the body's immune system mistakenly attacks its own tissues, leading to inflammation and damage. These diseases can be debilitating, affecting multiple organs and systems in the body. Rheumatoid arthritis and lupus are examples of autoimmune diseases that can significantly impact a person's quality of life. 
A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that surviving COVID-19 may increase the risk of developing autoimmune rheumatic diseases (AIRDs) such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus for up to a year after infection. The study analyzed data from over 10 million Korean and 12 million Japanese patients diagnosed with COVID-19 between January 2020 and December 2021. 
The researchers found that COVID-19 patients had a 25 percent to 30 percent increased risk of new-onset AIRDs compared to uninfected individuals. More severe cases of COVID-19 were associated with a greater risk of developing these inflammatory conditions. 
Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, a board-certified internist specializing in chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia, explained that COVID-19 infection can trigger autoimmune disorders due to the immune system being on high alert from fighting off the virus. The body's own tissues can suffer collateral damage as a result. 
On the other hand, the study also revealed that vaccination against COVID-19 could significantly lower the chances of developing AIRDs among patients who received one or two doses or more. This reduced risk was observed regardless of whether mRNA-based vaccines or viral-vector-type vaccines were used. 
It is important to note that this reduced risk was only seen in patients with mild cases of COVID-19, not those with moderate or severe infections. This finding is crucial given emerging evidence suggesting that COVID-19 vaccination could potentially lead to new-onset autoimmune diseases like glomerulonephritis, hepatitis, and AIRDs. 
Managing AIRDs requires long-term treatment, including medications, physical therapy, lifestyle modifications, regular monitoring, and comprehensive care from healthcare professionals. However, effective yet affordable treatments for these conditions are often overlooked. 
Dr. Teitelbaum highlighted low-dose naltrexone as an inexpensive treatment option shown to help alleviate chronic pain or autoimmune conditions. Additionally, he mentioned highly absorbed curcumin and Boswellia serrata as effective alternatives for treating rheumatic arthritis without the side effects commonly associated with conventional medications like Celebrex. 
In conclusion, while surviving COVID-19 may increase the risk of developing debilitating autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus within a year post-infection, getting vaccinated against the virus could reduce this risk significantly among individuals with mild cases. It is essential for individuals at heightened risk to consult healthcare professionals for proper management strategies tailored towards minimizing the health risks associated with these inflammatory conditions.


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