Dr. Arthritis Shares: Arthritis and the Coronavirus—Here Are the Facts

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In recent weeks, the world has been flooded by news of the Coronavirus. The virus, officially called COVID-19, has prompted a lot of worry, largely due to the misinformation circulating on the web. As arthritis sufferers, there’s also a lot of questions regarding how this will affect us.

To that end, we reached out to our medical contacts and scoured credible sources online to answer your most pressing questions about it–

What’s the coronavirus?

The coronavirus actually refers to a large cluster of viruses responsible for everything from causing colds to severe pneumonia. The most recently discovered coronavirus is COVID-19.

COVID-19 is the specific virus that we’re dealing with now. It was dubbed “Coronavirus” when it first started to spread because it was only very recently named by the World Health Organization (WHO). In this context, when people refer to the coronavirus and COVID-19, they are actually referring to the same thing—a type of virus that attaches to cells in your lungs and causes penumonia-like symptoms.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to the flu. According to WHO, over 80% or even more people who tested positive for the virus exhibited mild symptoms that are similar to colds or seasonal flu. These included fever, cough, and shortness of breath—all of which appear anywhere from 2-14 days after infection.

According to statistics, around 80% who contract the virus fully recover without needing special treatment; and around 1 out of 6 cases become seriously ill and develop difficulty breathing. In such cases, these are usually older people with underlying medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart problems, and diabetes.

Given these symptoms, people with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention immediately.

Is it contagious?

Yes. People can catch COVID-19 from others who have the virus. It spreads from one person to another through small droplets that are expelled when an infected person coughs or exhales. These droplets can land on objects and surfaces, and when another person touches these surfaces and proceeds to touch their face, eyes, nose, or mouth, they can potentially catch the virus.

Is there anything I can do to protect myself from COVID-19?

Yes–surface viruses can be killed with isopropyl alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, and bleach. Soap and water and disinfectants can also be used.

Always keep the following in mind:

  • Diligent hand hygiene is essential. Remember to regularly wash your hands (with soap for at least 20 seconds) or apply an alcohol based hand sanitizer.
  • Maintain at lest 1 meter (3 feet) distance between yourself and someone who’s coughing or sneezing to ensure that you don’t breathe in any droplets expelled.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth where viruses can easily enter, especially after you touch high-traffic surfaces.
  • If you sneeze or cough, always cover your mouth using the crook of your elbow, your hand, or a tissue. Remember to sanitize after. 
  • If you’re feeling unwell, stay in. If you think you’re exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, reach out to your local health authority who can provide you with the most up to date information or provide next steps to follow.

I have autoimmune or inflammatory arthritis—am I at a higher risk for COVID-19?

Because of how new COVID-19 is, information about the virus is limited, so no one knows for sure. However, according to Arthritis.org, “people with autoimmune or inflammatory arthritis with high disease activity are generally at a higher risk of infections because of greater imnune dysregulation.”

“For COVID-19 and seasonal flu, we do know that older adults and those with pre-existing health problems – especially cardiovascular disease, diabetes and high blood pressure – and those who have been hospitalized before with infections are most at risk.

The experts emphasize that one of the main concerns for people with autoimmune disease who contract seasonal flu or COVID-19 is secondary bacterial infection, or complications, that may follow the original viral infection.”

Given this, if you start to exhibit COVID-19 symptoms, be sure to reach out to your doctor right away.

Because of my arthritis, I take a lot of medicines that suppress my immune system—does that put me at a higher risk for infection?

We know very little about the virus and how it can potentially impact patients who have to take immunosuppressant drugs.

According to studies however–

“[But] Michael George, MD, a rheumatologist and assistant professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, says that in relation to viruses in general, limited data suggest some of the drugs used to treat autoimmune and inflammatory types of arthritis – biologics (for example, Remicade, Enbrel and Cimzia), JAK-inhibitors (Xeljanz, Olumiant and Rinvoq), and corticosteroids (prednisone) – may contribute to higher risk or severity of viral infection. A recent large study of people with cardiovascular disease found that hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) does not increase the risk of infection and methotrexate increases the risk of infection only slightly.”

The concern here is that drugs designed to suppress the immune system could make it easier for the virus to replicate. So if you’re taking these kinds of medicines to manage your arthritis and have been exhibiting symptoms, be sure to speak to your doctor and inform them right away.

It’s important to note however that experts warn patients against halting or changing their medications without first consulting their physicians in light of COVID-19.

Can wearing a mask protect me?

WHO recommends people to only wear a mask if they are confirmed to be ill with COVID-19.

The most effective way to protect yourself against COVID-19 is to frequently clean your hands, avoid touching your face, cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing, and maintaining a distance of at least 1 meter (3 feet) from people who are coughing or sneezing.

Is there a vaccine for COVID-19? Are there any drugs or treatment options available?

While there is no vaccine yet available, the scientific community are hard at work to explore possible vaccines and drug treatments that could prevent infections and address the spread of the virus. Still, everyone affected should receive proper medical care to relieve symptoms, while those with more serious symptoms should be hospitalized. Most patients recover after infection.

We strongly encourage this community to regularly check the World Health Organization site to stay up to date with the latest news and updates from a credible source. Rest assured that we’re also doing all we can to gather as much information regarding COVID-19 so we can share it with all of you. 

Dr. Arthritis Shares: Meet Dr. Saurabh Srivastava

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If you’ve ever reached out to us at Dr. Arthritis, it’s very likely that you’ve directly chatted with one of our co-founders—Dr. Saurabh Srivastava. Yes, our founders are still very much involved in customer service. They read your emails, reply to your questions, and chat with customers personally. No matter how busy it gets in the office, Doctor Arthritis is committed to delivering the kind of personalized care and attention that our community deserves.

And if you ever wanted to learn more about how Doctor Arthritis got started, visit Thrive Global and check out his piece on entrepreneurship where he shares insight on the challenges and struggles he and his co-founder experienced as they tried to bring Doctor Arthritis off the ground.

Click on read the article here–

 

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Dr. Arthritis Shares: New Drug Combo Shows Promising Results 

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Osteoarthritis (OA) is caused by the natural wear and tear of our joints. And when the cartilage between bones break down, there’s isn’t really anything we can do to restore that cushion to prevent pain, swelling, and stiff joints. In short, OA sufferers have very little options when it comes to treatment.

Here’s a bit of good news coming our way in 2020 though. According to Salk researchers, a combination of two experimental drugs could potentially reverse the cellular and molecular signs of OA. Results have only been observed so far in rats and in isolated human cartilage cells, however these discoveries could be groundbreaking for the study of arthritis.

“What’s really exciting is that this is potentially a therapy that can be translated to the clinic quite easily, We are excited to continue refining this promising combination therapy for human use.”

Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte,  Salk Professor and Lead Author of the Study

Previous research revealed that two specific molecules, alpha-KLOTHO (αKLOTHO) and TGF beta receptor 2 (TGFβR2), could potentially be used to treat OA. αKLOTHO acts on the mesh of molecules surrounding articular cartilage cells, which in turn prevents the extra-cellular matrix from degrading. TGFβR2 acts more directly on cartilage cells, stimulating their proliferation and preventing their breakdown.

Individually, each drug was only shown to moderately curb OA in animal studies. But together, the drugs demonstrated better efficacy.

“From the very first time we tested this drug combination on just a few animals, we saw a huge improvement. We kept checking more animals and seeing the same encouraging results,” says Paloma Martinez-Redondo, a Salk research associate and first author of the new study.

Further experiments revealed 136 genes that were more active and 18 genes that were less active in the cartilage cells of treated rats compared to control rats. Among those were genes involved in inflammation and immune responses, suggesting some pathways by which the combination treatment works.

In an effort to test the drug combination’s applicability to humans, the team treated isolated human articular cartilage cells with results showing that levels of molecules involved in cell proliferation, extra-cellular matrix formation and cartilage cell identity all increased.

To be clear, these tests don’t mean that it will deliver the same results in actual humans, but researchers are looking at initial study results as a good sign that this drug combination could potentially work in OA patients.

Further research is required of course, to make sure that the drugs are safe to be taken directly and whether the combination of drugs could prevent the development of OA even before symptoms develop.

Their results were published in the journal Protein & Cell on January 16, 2020. Read more about the study here. 

Dr. Arthritis Shares: Kids With Arthritis Could Benefit from Having a Pet

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Kids get arthritis too—it’s a fact that either people are oblivious to, or completely overlook. After all, isn’t arthritis an “old person’s disease”? It seems impossible that a child, under the age of 16, would have to deal with creaky, painful joints most commonly experienced by people over the age of 60.

Yet it’s true—kids do get arthritis. Those who get diagnosed younger tend to fare best, owing to the fact they haven’t really known any other reality. Those who get diagnosed in their early teens however, have a harder time dealing with the fact that they’re now unable to do a lot of the things they used to love doing.

Additionally, when even adults have a hard time articulating the emotions that they feel due to their diagnosis, how can we expect a child to easily express the difficulties that they’re experiencing?

Fact is, arthritis is just as isolating for kids as it is for adults. And when kids are unable to run and play with friends as they used to and verbalize how that makes them feel, it can be very frustrating and lonely.

For Elizabeth Medeiros, the company that her loyal little pooch provided as her juvenile arthritis escalated proved to be a godsend. “[…] I’m so glad that we got Gracie in time for those hard years. She’s always so happy, whether she’s playing or cuddling up in front of the TV. And Gracie never leaves my side on the awful days. Many quiet, painful days would have been far lonelier if it hadn’t been for my furry sidekick,” she shares in a recent post on Juvenile Arthritis News.

A pet can give a child who feels physically limited and unwell companionship to temper the feeling of loneliness that tends to creep in when you end up getting sidelined by arthritis. A few minutes cuddling up with your dog, playing with your cat, or even watching your fish swim can help you feel calmer and less anxious.

Scientifically, animals have been known to offer comfort and provide support, helping reduce patient stress and anxiety. In fact, a survey reports that 74% of pet owners reported mental health improvements from pet ownership. Additionally, over half of the respondents say that their physical health improved because they have a pet.

If you’re a parent or a well meaning family member or friend who wants to give a child suffering from juvenile arthritis a pet, there are guidelines to keep in mind though.

For instance, large dogs can be quite problematic. Some dog breeds will be harder to manage, especially if you want a small child to primarily be responsible for it. So while those Labrador or Golden Retriever puppies are so adorably playful now, remember they’re going to be pretty hard to take care of when they get a little older because they have such high energy. Your options aren’t just limited to dogs either. For younger children, if puppies or kittens aren’t an option, bunnies or hamsters, even fish can also provide the same sense of companionship but demand lower maintenance from pet owners. 

Bottomline? Pets can truly be a source of companionship for kids who suffer from a condition that can make them feel isolated and alone. If you agree, feel free to share this post or tell us about your personal experience with pets.

Dr. Arthritis Asks: What New Year’s Resolutions Will You Make for 2020?

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One holiday down, one more to go—and this time, it’s not just about gift-giving and indulgent feasts. After a week of holiday revelry, we wake up on January 1st with the urge to take stock of where we want our life to go. It’s a new year after all, and we have every opportunity to redefine where the remaining 365 days will take us.

Many of you are probably thinking that making New Year’s resolutions is a tired old tradition—especially considering that statistics say resolutions made as the year winds down don’t even make it past January.

As trite as it is however, no occasion is more symbolic of our desire to improve ourselves and drive positive change than New Year. So in the spirit of bucking statistics and making a long-term, lasting impact in our life, we’ve compiled a list of resolutions our own team members who suffer from chronic pain are making as they go into 2020. Hopefully, they inspire you to start your own.

Be more open about living with chronic pain

I recently spoke about what it was like to live with chronic pain—and it made me realize just how helpful it is for chronic pain sufferers to open up about what we’re going through. We often keep things bottled up. Usually so we don’t have to bother others about how hard it is to live with our illness and function normally, or because we don’t like other people feeling sorry for us. We keep it to ourselves at the risk of being thought of as weak. We fear being misunderstood, or worse, being considered lazy or whiny. I’ve learned though that this is never usually the case. Opening up to people around us—family, friends, colleagues—it actually helps. You might even be surprised at how supportive people around you can be. So this year, I want to make a more conscious effort to be more open about what I’m going through—to not keep everything inside.

Victoria

Incorporate more exercise into my lifestyle

We all complain about exercising. But working with chronic pain sufferers with varying degrees of severity, I realized I shouldn’t take my ability to still be able to work out for granted. Exercise is a great way to manage arthritis symptoms and often, arthritis sufferers would love to get more exercise but their illness and severe symptoms prevents them from doing so. So this year, I want to make a bigger push to incorporate activity in my life.

Monica

Eat healthier

I live a fairly active lifestyle but I’ve noticed that my symptoms seem to get more persistent as I get older. I’ve come to realize that it’s because no matter how religiously I exercise, a lot of my flares are triggered by diet. I love junk food but the fact is, I should really make more of an effort to include greens and whole foods and cut back on sugar and fast food.

Adam

Get more sleep

Being in this industry, I’m used to working a lot of late nights. But the truth is, if you’re tired and not feeling well-rested, it will snowball into a lot of other aspects of your life. Because you’re more tired, you tend to rush through eating and pick up something quick and easy (fast food!); you’re more tired so you skip exercise; you’re lethargic so you’re more withdrawn. And when you feel run down and beat, it also amplifies your arthritis symptoms. I want to make an effort to maintain better sleeping patterns and see how it will create positive changes in my routine.

Jennifer

Seek support

I work a lot with with patients who suffer from chronic pain and across the board, the idea of seeking help and finding support isn’t a popular one. To that end, most chronic pain sufferers tend to feel isolated and alone—when they don’t have to be. So as part of my resolution, I want to practice what I preach and be more open to support—from friends and family, even from arthritis communities online.

June

Cut back on stress

Stress is hard to avoid and it’s an inherent part of our lives. But I want to truly make a conscious effort to learn how to deal with it better, simply because we usually gloss over how it negatively affects our lives. There are a lot of things we can do, for example, exercising, meditation, talking to family and friends, being more social, getting more rest. The important thing is being more self aware about what factors are causing your stress so you can recognize it and do something about it.

Michael

What’s on your resolution list as we welcome 2020? Feel free to share it below and leave a comment!