Rheumatic Disease and Long-Haul COVID-19

Rheumatic Disease and Long-Haul COVID-19 Posted By:
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Research presented at the most recent American College of Rheumatology (ACR) Convergence in November 2021, details the presence of long-haul COVID-19 symptoms in patients with rheumatic diseases. Medha Barbhaiya, MD, MPH, and colleagues from the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City presented their preliminary findings in a poster presentation: Nearly 56% of patients with rheumatic disease and COVID-19 reported persistent COVID-19 symptoms lasting at least 3 months after diagnosis.

Barbhaiya and colleagues sent an online survey in March 2021 to patients who had seen a rheumatologist at least once between 2018 and 2020. Among the 2572 patients who completed the survey, 254 noted a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19. Of those 254 respondents, 55.9% reported symptoms of COVID-19 lasting 3 months or longer. Respondents had a variety of rheumatic diseases including inflammatory arthritis, spondyloarthropathy, and lupus. There was not a significant difference in presence of long-haul symptoms between those with systemic rheumatic diseases and those with nonsystemic rheumatic diseases. There was, however, higher frequency of long-haul symptoms seen in patients with at least 1 comorbidity, those who were current or former smokers, and those who had been on corticosteroids for at least 3 months at the time of COVID-19 diagnosis. Those with long-haul symptoms also had greater frequency of COVID-19 symptoms at diagnosis/presentation, including chills, cough, fatigue/malaise, headache/migraine, loss of smell or taste, muscle aches, memory/concentration problems, joint pain, and shortness of breath.

Long-haul COVID symptoms can be debilitating for patients who experience them. The current study by Barbhaiya et al suggests certain patients with rheumatic diseases may be at an increased risk of developing long-haul symptoms. Further research is needed to clarify which patient factors are indicative of a higher risk of these symptoms and, more importantly, what we may be able to do for these patients in the future. If nothing else, these findings further stress the importance of COVID-19 vaccine and booster administration in patients with rheumatic diseases.

References
  • Barbhaiya M, et al. Risk factors for "long haul" COVID-19 in rheumatology outpatients in New York City. Presented at: ACR Convergence 2021; November 6, 2021. Abstract 0095.

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Filed under: Infectious Diseases , Public Health , Rheumatology

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