Twelve percent of patients still have painful, swollen joints a year after infection (see Cui). These are mainly just mild to moderate symptoms, fortunately. But that’s still a lot of premature arthritis for several million people.
The knees, hands, and shoulders were the most affected, and more in women and older patients. All of this happened independently of illness severity or steroid therapy.
This the first good data we’ve gotten on this topic… thirty months into the pandemic.
This is not an exotic COVID-only thing: other infections also trigger rheumatic symptoms. It’s even possible that this phenomenon is a significant driver of arthritis, which we know is definitely not just a “wear and tear” disease.