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The new and evolving COVID-19 has led to many questions, and very few answers, especially when it comes to preventing infection in those with auto immune conditions like Ankylosing Spondylitis. It is our aim to reach out to you with credible information on managing your condition better.
Here's what experts from the field of Rheumatology including National and International Rheumatological Associations have to say about Ankylosing Spondylitis and COVID-19.
It is important that you understand your level of risk of contracting COVID-19. Your Rheumatologist would be the best judge to determine your risk.
When in doubt, call your Rheumatologist.
You must understand that medications prescribed for your condition (e.g., Disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs or biologics) are necessary to prevent the worsening of your symptoms. These target certain parts of the immune system.
However, it is still not clear if these drugs increase your chances of developing COVID-19.
Your Ankylosing Spondylitis medications are an integral part of your health.
You need to keep in mind, that discontinuation of prescribed drugs may lead to a ‘flare-up’ or a severe increase in symptoms. Continual therapy is important to manage your symptoms.
Rheumatology experts from across the world including Indian Rheumatology Association (IRA), The European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR), British Society for Rheumatology and National Axial Spondyloarthritis Society (NAAS) unanimously suggest that you should continue treatment if you do not have symptoms of COVID-19.
Even though guidelines suggest continuation of treatment, it is important that you reach out to your Rheumatologist if you have any doubts or queries about the same. Remember, your Rheumatologist will be the best judge to decide about your medications.
It is important that you adopt the precautions suggested by the World Health Organisation, irrespective of your risk.
It is important that you abide by the lockdown rules issued by your state government or district authorities to ensure your safety.
Call your doctor immediately if you notice any symptoms.
Most Rheumatologists are available via phone or video calling applications. It is best to clear any doubts or queries that you have regarding your condition or your treatment with your Rheumatologist.
You may need to take a prior appointment to visit the clinic to ensure continued treatment.
Your Rheumatologist will schedule an appointment for you based on your current treatment schedule and symptoms.
Pay attention to your symptoms. When in doubt, call your Rheumatologist.
Visiting the clinic
You may need to visit your Rheumatologist for drug administration and routine monitoring. Here are a few pointers you can keep in mind to make the most of your visit.
Before the day of your appointment
Call to confirm your appointment
Prepare a list of questions you need to ask your Rheumatologist
Use adequate safety measures while traveling for your appointment. Wear a mask, sanitise seats, door handles, etc.
While visiting the clinic:
Social distancing in waiting areas
Wearing mask at all times
Producing travel declarations
Submitting to temperature checks
Your Rheumatologist will evaluate your symptoms and attend to your dose administration while taking all the necessary precautions. Remember to ask your Rheumatologist to schedule your next appointment before you leave.
Every challenge contains in it the seeds of opportunity and growth.
Take COVID-19 as a motivator to adapt to healthier habits. Here are a few pointers:
Don't put your Ankylosing Spondylitis treatment on hold. These are challenging times, forcing us to think practically, go with the flow and emerge with a renewed ability to Fight The Fuse!
Indian Rheumatology Association. COVID-19. Available [Online] at: http://indianrheumatology.org/patient-education-material Accessed on 26 June 2020
NAAS. COVID19: Frequently asked questions (FAQs) Available [Online] at:https://nass.co.uk/managing-my-as/covid19-coronavirus/covid19-frequently-asked-questions-faqs/ Accessed on 25th June 2020
Liebowitz J. The Rheumatologist. The COVID-19 Pandemic: What You Should Know. Available [Online] at: https://www.the-rheumatologist.org/article/the-covid-19-pandemic-what-you-should-know/?singlepage=1&theme=print-friendly Accessed on 25 June 2020
EULAR Guidance for patients COVID-19 outbreak. Available [Online] at: https://www.eular.org/eular_guidance_for_patients_covid19_outbreak.cfm Accessed on 26 June 2020
British Society for Rheumatology. Covid-19 (Coronavirus) - update for members. Available [Online] at: https://www.rheumatology.org.uk/practice-quality/covid-19-guidance Accessed on 26 June 2020
World Health Organisation. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public Available [Online] at: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public Accessed on 30 June 2020