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How Autoimmune Disease Risks Heightens After SARS-CoV-2

An expert delves into the increased risk of conditions including psoriasis flares, lupus, and scleroderma following COVID-19.

The link between COVID-19 infection and development of autoimmune disease is becoming more pronounced, and fields including dermatology are seeking answers to what drives it all.

A late-breaking session at the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) 2022 Annual Meeting this weekend showed patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 are a heightened risk of developing cutaneous autoimmune and vascular conditions. The findings, presented by Brigham and Women’s Hospital clinical fellow of medicine Zachary Holcomb, MD, showed what he told HCPLive is a definite signal triggering various autoimmune disease risks following infection of the pandemic virus.

Specifically, Holcomb said in an interview, systemic diseases appear to be “quite prevalent” after COVID-19.

“I think this pandemic is a multi-step process, and we’re seeing a little bit more of the later phases at this point,” Holcomb said. “Now we’re seeing some of the more long-term sequelae. I think we’re going to have more and more data that comes out over the years of the rate of these autoimmune diseases and long-term health implications of things like long COVID and development of additional systemic and autoimmune processes.”

Key among these risks are dermatomyositis, scleroderma, and lupus, among others. But the issue is not reserved to autoimmune diseases, he explained—dermatologic manifestations including psoriasis and bullous diseases have been exacerbated by COVID-19 infection.

“I think they do go hand-in-hand,” Holcomb said about COVID-19 and dermatologic disease. “Understanding the underlying pathogenesis as to why that happens is a little bit beyond our ability right now, but I definitely think there is some sort of relationship between the two.”