Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) is associated with increased risk for accelerated atherosclerosis
and cardiovascular (CV) events including coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular and peripheral
artery disease. CV events occur both early and late during the disease course, with younger
patients being at much higher risk than age-matched counterparts. The risk cannot be fully accounted for
by the increased prevalence of traditional atherosclerotic factors and may be due to pathophysiologic
intermediates such as type I interferons and other inflammatory cytokines, oxidative stress, activated
granulocytes and production of extracellular chromatin traps, antiphospholipid and other autoantibodies
causing dysfunction of lipoproteins, altogether resulting in endothelial injury and pro-atherogenic
dyslipidaemia. These mechanisms may be further aggravated by chronic intake of prednisone (even at
doses <7.5 mg/day), whereas immunomodulatory drugs, especially hydroxychloroquine, may exert antiatherogenic
properties. To date, there is a paucity of randomized studies regarding the effectiveness of
preventative strategies and pharmacological interventions specifically in patients with SLE. Nevertheless,
both the European League Against Rheumatism recommendations and extrapolated evidence from
the general population emphasize that SLE patients should undergo regular monitoring for atherosclerotic
risk factors and calculation of the 10-year CV risk. Risk stratification should include diseaserelated
factors and accordingly, general (lifestyle modifications/smoking cessation, antihypertensive and
statin treatment, low-dose aspirin in selected cases) and SLE-specific (control of disease activity, minimization
of glucocorticoids, use of hydroxychloroquine) preventive measures be applied as appropriate.
Further studies will be required regarding the use of non-invasive tools and biomarkers for CV assessment
and of risk-lowering strategies tailored to SLE.
Keywords: Autoimmune disease, type I interferon, antiphospholipid antibodies, glucocorticoids, dyslipidaemia, ischemic heart
disease, cerebrovascular disease, statin.
Rights & PermissionsPrintExport