Sarcopenia refers to a decrease in skeletal muscle mass and function. Because sarcopenia affects mortality, and causes significant disability, the clinical importance of sarcopenia is emerging. At first, sarcopenia was recognized as an age-related disease but, recently, it has been reported to be prevalent also in younger patients with autoimmune diseases. Specifically, the association of sarcopenia and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis has been studied in detail. Although the pathogenesis of sarcopenia in autoimmune diseases has not been elucidated, chronic inflammation is believed to contribute to sarcopenia, and moreover the pathogenesis seems to be different depending on the respective underlying disease. The definition of sarcopenia differs among studies, which limits direct comparisons. Therefore, in this review, we cover various definitions of sarcopenia used in previous studies and highlight the prevalence of sarcopenia in diverse autoimmune diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, spondyloarthritis, systemic sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, and autoimmune diabetes. In addition, we cover the pathogenesis and treatment of sarcopenia in autoimmune and rheumatic diseases. This review provides a comprehensive understanding of sarcopenia in various autoimmune diseases and highlights the need for a consistent definition of sarcopenia.
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