Accelerated atherosclerosis in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus: a review of the causes and possible prevention

GN Thomas, LS Tam, B Tomlinson, EK Li
Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Prince of Wales Hospital, Shatin, Hong Kong

Systemic lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune disorder affecting multiple organ systems. Patients with systemic lupus erythematosus exhibit a bimodal pattern of mortality, with those who have had the disease for 5 to 10 years being at increased risk of cardiovascular disease, particularly myocardial infarction. Elevated levels of conventional cardiovascular risk factors promote vascular damage resulting in impairment of normal endothelial function. In addition, autoantibodies directed against oxidised lipoproteins, along with chronic secretion of inflammatory cytokines and suppression of fibrinolytic parameters, are thought to increase atherogenesis. Treatment with corticosteroids may also contribute to the accelerated atherosclerosis observed in these patients. This review discusses the accentuated relationship between conventional cardiovascular risk factors, systemic lupus erythematosus–induced inflammatory changes and the early stages of atherogenesis and how careful monitoring of risk factors and use of appropriate therapies may reduce the progression of atheroma development in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus.

Hong Kong Med J 2002;8:26-32

Key words: Arteriosclerosis; Cardiovascular diseases; Hong Kong; Lupus erythematosus, systemic

 
 
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