Objectives: To study the prevalence and characteristics of retinal vascular disease in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and to analyze their relationship with antiphospholipid antibodies (aPL) and other serological markers.
Patients and methods: Eighty-two consecutive patients (77 women and 5 men; mean age, 36 years) were studied. All patients fulfilled the 1982 revised criteria of the American College of Rheumatology for the classification of SLE. Ophthalmologic examination included assessment of best corrected visual acuity, tonometry, slit-lamp biomicroscopy, and fundus examination. Serologic studies included determination of anticardiolipin antibodies (aCL) (ELISA), lupus anticoagulant (LA) (coagulation tests), antinuclear antibodies (indirect immunofluorescence), anti-DNA (Farr's test), and anti-ENA antibodies (counterimmunoelectrophoresis).
Results: Retinal vascular disease was detected in 13 (15%) of 82 SLE patients. The retinal lesions consisted of retinal vascular occlusions in six patients (five arterial and one venous), cotton-wool spots in three, optic disc edema in three, retinal hemorrhages in three, and ischemic optic neuropathy in one. Antiphospholipid antibodies were detected in 10 (77%) of these 13 patients: nine had aCL and two had the LA. When compared with patients without retinal vascular disease, patients with retinopathy had a higher prevalence of aPL (77% v. 29%, P = .005).
Conclusions: Retinal vascular disease is frequent in patients with SLE. The presence of aPL is associated with a higher prevalence of retinal abnormalities in SLE patients.