Patient-friendly news you can use illustration

If you have a chronic condition — or are a caregiver for a loved one with a chronic condition — being engaged in your care means staying up to date on research. With that in mind, we’ve pulled together the latest health-related news and patient-centered studies to keep you informed so you can better manage your condition and advocate for better care. 

In this month’s round-up, we’ll discuss COVID vaccine updates, new patient guidelines for irritable bowel disease as well as psoriatic arthritis, potential benefits of caffeine, and the link between rheumatoid arthritis and depression. 

Possible Link Between COVID and Rheumatic Disease Risk

Did COVID-19 infections lead to a rise in people at greater risk for a rheumatic disease? The risk of developing autoimmune inflammatory rheumatic diseases (AIRD) such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or psoriatic arthritis (PsA) sharply increased following COVID-19 infections, according to researchers 

Over 10 million Korean and 12 million Japanese patients ages 20 years or older, including those with COVID-19 between January 1, 2020, and December 31, 2021, were matched to patients with influenza infection and to uninfected control patients. Rates of new onset rheumatic disease were 25 percent greater among patients in South Korea and 79 percent greater in Japan compared to the uninfected controls from the general population.  

Acute and more severe cases of COVID were linked to the higher risk of developing a rheumatic condition more frequently than mild cases. For example, in South Korea, AIRD rates were 22 percent greater with mild cases of COVID, but 42 percent higher in moderate-severe cases. AIRD was also less frequent in COVID survivors who had been vaccinated. We have yet to see data across other countries. 

Immunocompromised Still Eligible for Updated Vaccine

On February 28, 2024, the CDC endorsed an additional dose of this season’s COVID vaccine for adults ages 65 years and older. (People with weakened immune systems are already eligible for the updated shot.) An additional dose of the updated COVID-19 vaccine could be a lifeline. This booster is designed to replenish the protection that may have diminished since receiving a vaccine.

The CDC recommends at least one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, or Novavax 2023-2024 vaccine for everyone aged 6 months and older or who is moderately or severely immunocompromised. Depending on the number of doses you’ve previously received, you may need more than one dose of the updated vaccine.

For example, according to the CDC:

  •  If you have not gotten any COVID-19 vaccines (not vaccinated), you should get two to three doses of updated COVID-19 vaccine. 
  • If you got one previous Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, you should get one to two doses of updated COVID-19 vaccine. 
  • If you got two or more previous COVID-19 vaccines, you should get one updated COVID-19 vaccine. 

People who are immunocompromised and aged 65 years and older who received one dose of any updated 2023-2024 COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna or Novavax) should receive one additional dose of an updated 2023-2024 COVID-19 vaccine at least two months after the previous updated dose. Talk to your health care provider about getting additional doses of the updated COVID-19 vaccine. 

In Other COVID News…

On March 22, 2024, the FDA issued “an emergency use authorization for Pemgarda (pemivibart) for the pre-exposure prophylaxis (prevention) of COVID-19 in certain adults and adolescents (12 years of age and older weighing at least 40 kilograms (about 88 pounds).” 

According to the FDA, Pemgarda is authorized for the following individuals:  

  • Those not currently infected with SARS-CoV-2 and who have not had a known recent exposure to someone with COVID 
  • Those who are moderate-to-severely immune compromised due to a medical condition or who are taking immunosuppressive medications or treatments and are unlikely to mount an adequate immune response to the vaccine

Talk to your health care provider to find out if this medication is right for you.

Why You May Consider Depression Screening 

Does your doctor ever ask you about depression? People living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have a 1.66-fold higher risk of depression than those without the condition, according to a newly published study. Researchers found nearly 40,000 patients with RA and a comparison group of roughly 200,000 individuals without RA were matched 1:5 for age, sex, and index date using data from the Korean National Health Insurance Service database. Participants were enrolled from 2010 to 2017 and were followed up until 2019. Those who had previously been diagnosed with depression were excluded from the study.  

Whether you live with RA or another chronic condition, it’s important to pay close attention to any depressive symptom you might be experiencing. Keep track of when they started, as well as the severity and frequency, so you can talk to your doctor and get support if needed.  

Can Caffeine Protect Against Obesity and Osteoarthritis? 

Scientists found exciting new clues that having caffeine in your system over time might help protect you from obesity and decrease your chances of developing osteoarthritis. However, more research is needed to see how these discoveries could be used in medical treatments or lifestyle advice about caffeine intake. How did they figure this out?  

Researchers studied plasma caffeine, which is the caffeine that binds to plasma proteins in blood. After consuming caffeine-containing products, caffeine is absorbed into the bloodstream through the digestive system. It is then distributed throughout the body, including the brain, increasing alertness and reducing fatigue. They found that plasma caffeine protects the joints from damage.  

Before reaching for that soda or energy drink, it’s worth considering that while caffeine may offer potential benefits in reducing the risk of osteoarthritis, these beverages often come loaded with added sugar. Similarly, if you prefer your coffee with lots of cream and sugar or indulge in high-calorie lattes, be mindful of the sugar and calorie content. Caffeine can also have a negative effect on conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis.  

New Inflammatory Bowel Disease Guidelines Are Here 

In its latest clinical practice update, the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) offers guidance for gastroenterologists on advising patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) on diet and nutritional therapies. While aimed at providers, patients can also glean valuable insights from these recommendations. The full text of the Best Practice Advice Statements can be found here 

Here are a few recommendations you may want to take note of if you or someone you love lives with IBD: 

  • Patients with IBD should be advised to follow a Mediterranean diet rich in a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, monounsaturated fats, complex carbohydrates, and lean proteins and low in ultra processed foods, added sugar, and salt. 
  • All patients with IBD warrant regular screening for malnutrition by their provider by means of assessing signs and symptoms, including unintended weight loss, edema and fluid retention, and fat and muscle mass loss. 
  • All patients with IBD should be monitored for vitamin D and iron deficiency. 

As always, talk with your doctor before starting a new nutritional plan.  

EULAR Releases Update to Psoriatic Arthritis Guidelines

The European Alliance of Associations for Rheumatology (EULAR) has released a significant update to the 2019 guidelines, focusing on non-topical pharmacological treatments with a primary emphasis on musculoskeletal (MSK) manifestations. 

 The 2023 PsA guidelines incorporate newer treatment options and feature modified language, making them invaluable resources for rheumatologists, as well as other health care professionals and patients seeking insights into treatment discussions. 

Highlights of the updated PsA recommendations for the management of psoriatic arthritis include seven overarching principles (compared to six in 2019) and 11 recommendations (down from 12 in 2019 due to merges). Among these, only four recommendations remain unchanged from the previous guidelines. For a quick overview of the changes, refer to Table 3 for a comparison chart or Figure 1 for a flowchart within the guidelines. 

Want to Get More Involved with Patient Advocacy?

The 50-State Network is the grassroots advocacy arm of CreakyJoints and the Global Healthy Living Foundation, comprised of patients with chronic illness who are trained as health care activists to proactively connect with local, state, and federal health policy stakeholders to share their perspective and influence change. If you want to effect change and make health care more affordable and accessible to patients with chronic illness, learn more here. 

Center for Disease Control and Prevention, March 8, 2024.  

Gossec L, et al. EULAR recommendations for the management of psoriatic arthritis with pharmacological therapies: 2023 Update Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases March 18, 2024. doi: 10.1136/ard-2024-225531. 

Hashash, J.G. AGA Clinical Practice Update on Diet and Nutritional Therapies in Patients With Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Expert Review. Clinical Practice Updates. January 23, 2024.  

Jeon KH, et al. Rheumatoid Arthritis and Risk of Depression in South Korea. Journal of the American Medical Association Network Open.. 2024 doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2024.1139.  

Min Seo Kim, et al. Long-Term Autoimmune Inflammatory Rheumatic Outcomes of COVID-19: A Binational Cohort Study. Annals of Internal Medicine. March 5, 2024. doi:10.7326/M23-1831. 

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Emergency Use Authorizations for Drugs and Non-Vaccine Biological Products. March 22, 2024.  

Zagkos, L., et al. Genetic investigation into the broad health implications of caffeine: evidence from phenome-wide, proteome-wide and metabolome-wide Mendelian randomization. BMC Medicine February 20, 2024. 

  • Was This Helpful?