Lupus and Coronary Artery Disease (Atherosclerosis)
Studies show that people with
lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, or SLE) are at
a higher risk of developing
plaque deposits in arteries (atherosclerosis) that may cause
coronary artery disease (CAD). And they develop these deposits at a younger age. This means that people with lupus are likely to have a
greater risk of CAD and of having a
heart attack due to a blockage of the blood flow to a part of the heart muscle. For people with lupus, coronary artery disease is a major cause of illness and
death. Scientists are
studying the role of lupus-caused
inflammation in speeding up plaque
One study found that people
with lupus have more risk factors for developing CAD than do people who do not
have lupus. These risk factors include inadequate thyroid hormone in the body
(hypothyroidism) and onset of
menopause an average of 4 years earlier than women
without lupus. CAD poses a higher risk immediately before and after menopause.
In addition to these factors, women with lupus had higher levels of "bad"
cholesterol and were noted to lead less active
lifestyles, in large part because of lupus-caused fatigue, arthritis, and
reduced aerobic capacity.1 Aerobic capacity is the
ability to do exercise such as walking and swimming that pumps oxygen to your
heart and muscles.
Lupus is a difficult disease to diagnose because its symptoms can be vague. And unlike some other diseases, it cannot be diagnosed with a single lab test. However, when certain clinical criteria are met, lab tests can help confirm a diagnosis of lupus. Blood work and other tests can also help monitor the disease and show the effects of treatment.
WebMD takes a look at the uses and limitations of the tests that are commonly used to diagnose and monitor lupus.
To address this increased risk of
atherosclerosis, some experts recommend that all people with lupus (regardless
of presence of symptoms) be considered at increased risk for coronary artery
disease.2 Research continues for understanding and
then guiding treatment of this increased risk.
Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) began a
study in 2003 on the use of statins (medications used to lower "bad"
cholesterol levels) to test their effectiveness in lowering the plaque buildup
in children with lupus.
Bruce IN, et al. (2003). Risk factors for coronary
heart disease in women with systemic lupus erythematosus. Arthritis and Rheumatism, 48(11): 3159-3167.
Asanuma Y, et al. (2003). Premature coronary-artery
atherosclerosis in systemic lupus erythematosus. New England Journal of Medicine, 349(25): 2407-2415.
Primary Medical Reviewer
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer
Stanford M. Shoor, MD - Rheumatology
May 7, 2010
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
May 07, 2010
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