Spike in Cases of Auto-Immune Disorders like Rheumatoid Arthritis Post-COVID: Dr. Gaurav Seth

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FARIDABAD / October 10, 2023: There is a significant increase in cases of auto-immune disorders among COVID patients in the post-covid period, which has led to a spike in the incidence of arthritis over the last three years among the general population. This was said by Dr. Gaurav Seth, Senior Consultant – Rheumatology at Sarvodaya Hospital, Sector-8, Faridabad, ahead of the World Arthritis Day.

Said Dr. Gaurav Seth: “The incidence of various kinds of auto-immune disorders like Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Gout and Sarcoidosis, has seen an increase in the post-covid period. Due to this, we are witnessing a substantial increase in number of patients with arthritis in the last two-three years. Cases of rheumatoid arthritis have gone up by 2 to 3 times today compared to the pre-covid period. There has been a significant uptick in cases of Gout and Sarcoidosis too.”

The doctor said there seems to be a link between Covid and the spike being seen in autoimmune disorders among patients. “It looks like the Coronavirus infection has altered our immune system, leading to a variety of health problems like arthritis. Many Covid patients are now coming to us complaining of joint and body pain. We are especially seeing a rise in cases of rheumatoid arthritis among women between 30-50 years of age,” he said.

Dr. Seth said that even before the pandemic, cases of arthritis, especially osteoarthritis, were steadily going up in India due to increase in life expectancy and the fact that elderly people are now living much longer due to better healthcare access. “However, most cases of arthritis are not diagnosed properly in India. There are more than 100 causes of arthritis. There is an average time lag of one year between the time of presentation of the patient to the doctor and actual diagnosis of the disease. Sometimes, the patient has some symptoms of arthritis like swelling in the joints, but the tests come negative. It is important for doctors to provide treatment immediately and not wait for test results,” he added.

Dr. Gaurav Seth said that sedentary habits, especially during the pandemic time, have also led to a rise in the number of cases of gout. Rising consumption of junk food and processed foods is also responsible for rising cases of arthritis, as bad food habits can negatively alter the gut microbiome. “The gut microbiome of a rheumatoid arthritis patient is very different from normal, healthy people. So bad diet can play a big role in causing arthritis,” he said. “Smoking is also a risk factor for rheumatoid arthritis. A good lifestyle can significantly delay the onset of arthritis.”

The doctor said: “The good news is that the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis has significantly improved compared to options available 20 years ago. The arrival of biological drugs has shown a ray of hope to patients. These have drastically reduced joint damage and join deformities in rheumatoid arthritis patients, and complications like rheumatoid vasculitis (inflammation of blood vessels) that were common earlier have become rare. Biological drugs are becoming mainstream now, even though they are expensive compared to traditional drugs.”