COVID-19 infection has far-reaching effects. It promotes the occurrence of various types of diseases. Now their list is expanding to include another group of health problems. Korean scientists have confirmed that having a coronavirus infection increases the risk of autoimmune diseases. See what exactly they found.
COVID-19 wreaks havoc on the body and causes many different types of complications. It may lead to the development of cognitive disorders, anxiety, depression and cardiovascular diseases. Specialists from Korea have found evidence that people who have had coronavirus become more susceptible to autoimmune diseases. Get to know the details of the study.
COVID-19 and autoimmune diseases
Scientists conducted large-scale cohort (observational) studies. It was attended by over 354,000 people of various ages who suffered from COVID-19 infection. The control group consisted of healthy volunteers with no history of coronavirus infection.
The analysis showed that patients who have had a severe coronavirus infection requiring hospitalization are more likely to develop autoimmune health problems. These include diseases such as: alopecia areata, psoriasis, vitiligo, ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and Crohn’s disease. It is worth noting that vaccination against COVID-19 is a protective factor in this case. Unvaccinated people were more likely to suffer from the above-mentioned diseases.
“People who are wondering whether to take a protective preparation against the pathogen that causes COVID-19 should remember that it can prevent many different diseases, including those that would not have occurred to them,” says Dr. PJ Utz, researcher and professor in medicine in immunology and rheumatology from Stanford Medicine in California.
How high is the probability of developing autoimmune diseases in people who have been infected with coronavirus? It all depends on the type of disease. The highest risk was recorded in the case of inflammation of small blood vessels (the probability of developing the disease was almost three times higher than in the control group). The lowest risk was for systemic lupus erythematosus, but it was still significant. Gender was also a factor differentiating the risk of developing autoimmune diseases. Among women, an increased risk of alopecia areata, alopecia totalis, vitiligo, vasculitis, Crohn’s disease and sarcoidosis has been reported. Men, however, were more susceptible to alopecia totalis, psoriasis, Crohn’s disease, Still’s disease (the disease affects connective tissue), systemic sclerosis and ankylosing spondylitis.
The above study complements the analyzes conducted so far. Since the beginning of the pandemic, scientists have been wondering about the long-term effects of coronavirus infection and its impact on the occurrence of various types of diseases. Doctors hypothesize that viruses are a factor triggering reactions in the body leading to the development of full-blown autoimmune diseases. Now they are confirmed. Dr. Utz calls the discovery of Korean specialists “further evidence of the relationship between viral activity and autoimmune diseases.”
A certain limitation of the Korean research is the fact that it was conducted only on one ethnic group. Nevertheless, scientists recognize them as significant. “I think we need to be more vigilant when patients come to the doctor. We simply need to pay more attention to symptoms that indicate an autoimmune or inflammatory disease. It is also very important to carry out detailed diagnostic procedures,” concludes Dr. Utz.
Autoimmune diseases, what are they?
Autoimmune diseases are diseases associated with disturbances in the functioning of the immune system, which attacks healthy tissues of the body. As a result, progressive inflammation develops in the body. It causes damage to cells and organs. Inflammation can affect various organs, for example the thyroid, intestines, skin, adrenal glands, etc.