While more research is necessary, some current findings suggest that certain types of allergies can worsen the joint pain associated with arthritis — in particular, rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

The inflammatory processes that cause allergies and arthritis are similar. Your immune system overreacts to something in both conditions.

Reducing the impact allergies have on your arthritis can be done effectively by treating and managing both conditions. We will look at the current research and what treatments are available.

The two most common types of arthritis are rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA). RA is an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue, primarily in the joints. OA is usually the result of long-term wear-and-tear on a joint, or joint damage caused by a major injury.

There are several studies that show an overall association between the two conditions and their risk factors.

For example, a 2015 study exploring the connection between allergies and rheumatoid arthritis suggests that people with at least one allergy have a greater risk of developing RA. The association is likely due to the two conditions developing in similar ways, primarily related to a chronic, irregular response of the immune system.

Some allergy-arthritis connections are better studied than others. We will review what experts have discovered about allergies and arthritis.

Foods and certain ingredients that tend to increase inflammation in the body may also worsen arthritis symptoms. This includes added sugars, processed meats, and alcohol, among others.

However, a 2019 study suggests that food allergies, particularly those involving red meat, pork, and crab, may play a role in a type of spinal arthritis called ankylosing spondylitis (AS).

Symptoms such as a stuffy nose, watery eyes, and sneezing can be caused by allergies to the environment. It can lead to fatigue and lessened activity levels, which can lead to joint pain.

Just as food allergies can increase the body’s inflammation levels and worsen joint pain, so too can seasonal allergies.

Do you remember how the flu can causes aches and pains while your body fights off an infection? This is because your immune system is working hard to overcome the virus, creating inflammation in your stomach, lungs, throat, and elsewhere. Seasonal allergies cause a similar process to occur as your immune system seeks to repel the allergen.

Drug allergies can be caused by one or more components of a medication. Some drug allergies are mild and not noticeable, while others can be life threatening.

Common drug allergies include penicillin and other antibiotics, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen or naproxen.

Symptoms of a drug allergy can look like:

Research into the effects of drug allergies on arthritis is relatively scarce. However, a 2020 study suggests that drug allergies may be more common in people with RA than in the general population. The study notes that allergies to NSAIDs and antibiotics were among the medications most likely to trigger allergic responses.

If you believe you or a loved one is experiencing the symptoms of a drug allergy — including chest pain, breathing problems, or loss of consciousness — seek emergency assistance.

Animal dander is a very common allergen. Indeed, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) reports that about 30 percent of people with allergies have an allergy to cats and/or dogs.

A 2022 Swedish study suggests that while most allergies don’t increase RA risk, animal dander, along with atopic dermatitis (eczema) and allergic rhinitis (hay There is a high degree of fever.), are associated with an increased chance of developing RA.

Atopic dermatitis, a type of eczema, is caused by an irregular immune response that creates inflammation in your skin cells.

People with atopic dermatitis have an increased risk of other autoimmune disorders, including RA, according to a German 2016 analysis of medical records for more than 650,000 adults.

Rheumatoid arthritis can affect any joint, but the most common parts of the body affected by RA include the hands, wrists, and knees. RA often attacks more than one joint, and over time may affect organs including the heart and lungs.

When allergies affect RA, the joints already affected by arthritis are the ones that may experience worsening symptoms. The same is true for osteoarthritis, which can also affect any joint, but most commonly involves the knees, hips, spine, and hands.

It is important to manage both allergies and arthritis for the best total symptom relief and to lower inflammation levels to prevent future flares.

Allergy treatments

A two-fold approach is used to treat an allergy. The first thing to do is avoid being allergic. This could mean lifestyle behaviors such as staying indoors when the pollen count is high.

Taking medications to prevent an allergy flare-up is one of the approaches. If you have seasonal allergies, your doctor may give you a shot of allergy medication before allergy season starts.

Common medications used to treat allergies.

  • antihistamines to block the effects of histamines — substances produced by the immune system in response to allergen exposure
  • corticosteroids, either as topical creams and ointments, nasal sprays, or as oral medications
  • decongestants to prevent blood vessels from constricting in your nose
  • epinephrine, a synthetic hormone to treat severe allergic reactions, such as anaphylaxis

Using an air purifier with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter at home or work can also help clear allergens out of your immediate environment. These filters can also reduce airborne loads of viruses, such as COVID-19.

Arthritis treatments

A multi-faceted approach is required to treat arthritis.

The gold-standard treatment for arthritis includes:

  • During an arthritis flare-up, ice and rest are needed.
  • Depending on the affected joint, knee braces or other means of support.
  • Over-the-counter and prescription drugs.
  • Physical therapy can help strengthen the muscles around an affected joint.

There’s a wide range of arthritis medications targeted to specific types, including rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.

The immune system is related to both allergies and Rheumatoid arthritis, so both conditions are related. An irregular immune system response can be a cause of allergies and arthritis.

Doctors try to soothe acute symptoms while putting together a plan to prevent future flare-ups in arthritis and allergies. This may involve avoiding known triggers, lifestyle adjustments, and taking medication.

If you have an allergy, you should talk to your doctor about your risk factors for developing arthritis.