Can Covid-19 give you arthritis? Let’s find out

Published on: 9 February 2022, 18:00 pm IST

Are you experiencing severe joint pain post Covid-19? If yes, seek help because it can be a sign of a reactivated arthritis.

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Covid-19 can reactivate your arthritis. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Recovered Covid-19 patients may continue to experience symptoms like body ache and fatigue in many cases. While most post Covid complications ease on their own, for others you need to be watchful of specific symptoms. For instance, severe joint pain and body stiffness in the early morning are signs that you may be suffering from reactive arthritis, a type of inflammatory arthritis.

Reactive arthritis occurs post infection, associated with bacteria causing infective diarrhoea or urinary tract infection. The body’s immune system seems to overreact to the infection and starts attacking healthy tissue, causing it to become inflamed. But the exact reason for this is unknown. People who have a gene called HLA-B27 are much more likely to develop reactive arthritis than those who don’t but it’s unclear why.

Covid-19 is known to cause certain autoimmune diseases which includes reactive arthritis. The symptoms start a week after Covid infection and affects males more than females.

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Save your joints and muscles from wear and tear. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Symptoms of reactive arthritis

“The joint pains mainly affect knees, ankles and feet though occasionally may also involve wrist and shoulders. The intensity of pain in reactive arthritis tends to be moderate to severe in intensity, associated with joint swelling, early morning stiffness lasting for more than half an hour,” Dr Puneet Mashru, M.D (Medicine); S.C.E Rheumatology (U.K), Consultant-Rheumatologist at Sir H N Reliance Foundation Hospital told HT Digital.

How to diagnose reactive arthritis

“The diagnosis of reactive arthritis is a clinical diagnosis. We generally recommend blood tests for signs of inflammation, antibodies associated with other types of arthritis and genetic marker linked to reactive arthritis (HLA b27),” adds Dr Mashru.

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How to manage reactive arthritis

  • The arthritis can be managed by using painkillers in most patients and the disease may resolve by itself over a few weeks.
  • Using icing may also help to alleviate the pain and reduce inflammation.

“If these agents are insufficient then joint injections or arthritis medications (disease- modifying antirheumatic drugs) like sulfasalazine or occasionally a short course of oral steroids may be needed,” says the rheumatologist.

A physiotherapist can provide you with targeted exercises for your joints and muscles once the acute inflammation starts reducing. Strengthening exercises increase the joint’s support by developing the muscles around the affected joints. Range-of-motion exercises can increase your joint’s flexibility and reduce stiffness.

“Avoid self-medication as it may cause harm and it is important to note that effective treatment is available to treat reactive arthritis,” concludes Dr Mashru

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