Atherosclerosis is a chronic inflammatory disorder characterized by immune cell activation, inflammation driven plaque formation and subsequent destabilization. In other disorders of an inflammatory nature, the chronic inflammatory state per se has been linked to acceleration of the atherosclerotic process which is underlined by an increased incidence of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in disorders such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and antiphopholipid (Hughes) syndrome (APS). SLE is an autoimmune disease that may affect any organ. Premature coronary heart disease has emerged as a major cause of morbidity and mortality in SLE. In addition to mortality, cardiovascular morbidity is also markedly increased in these patients, compared with the general population. The increased cardiovascular risk can be explained only partially by an increased prevalence of classical risk factors for cardiovascular disease; it also appears to be related to inflammation. Inflammation is increasingly being considered central to the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis and an important risk factor for vascular disease. Recent epidemiologic and pathogenesis studies have suggested a great deal in common between the pathogenesis of prototypic autoimmune disease such as SLE and that of atherosclerosis. We will review traditional risk factors for CVD in SLE. We will also discuss the role of inflammation in atherosclerosis, as well as possible treatment strategies in these patients.
Keywords: Cardiovascular disease, systemic lupus erythematosus, atherosclerosis
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