Objectives: Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a systemic inflammatory disease associated with an increased prevalence of coronary heart disease and a high cardiovascular (CV) mortality. In this article, a review of mechanisms implicated in the development of accelerated atherogenesis in RA was performed. The potential role of treatment to reduce the incidence of CV events in RA was also discussed.
Methods: Retrospective review of the literature. The potential mechanisms implicated in the development of accelerated atherogenesis in RA, information on carotid ultrasonography, and the potential implication of treatment to prevent accelerated atherogenesis in individuals with RA were examined.
Results: Endothelial dysfunction, which is an early step in the development of atherosclerosis, has been observed in patients with RA. Deleterious effects resulting from persistent chronic inflammation may lead to endothelial dysfunction, insulin resistance, and a dyslipidemic pattern in these patients. Other mechanisms different from those related to classic atherogenesis risk factors, such as hyperhomocysteinemia and increased oxidative stress, are considered to be implicated in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis in RA. Increased carotid intima-media thickness and carotid plaques have been found in RA patients compared with matched controls. Active MTX treatment of the disease has been associated with decreased CV mortality. Additional drugs such as statins may be considered in the management of these patients.
Conclusions: The increased prevalence of CV mortality rate in RA cannot only be explained by the presence of traditional atherosclerotic risk factors. A chronic inflammatory response may promote the development of accelerated atherogenesis in these patients. Active treatment of the disease is required to reduce the risk of developing CV complications in individuals with RA.