Objective: To determine the prevalence of lipid abnormalities at different times and to determine the influence of both the disease and corticosteroid therapy on lipid abnormalities in pediatric patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
Methods: Lipid measurements were obtained in an inception cohort of 139 pediatric patients with SLE (114 females). Fasting levels of total cholesterol, triglycerides, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol in the SLE patients were compared with those in age- and sex-matched control subjects. Disease activity levels and medication dosages were obtained at the time of lipid measurements.
Results: At the time of diagnosis, the mean levels of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides were highest, whereas the mean levels of HDL cholesterol were lowest. The percentage of patients with abnormal triglyceride values was highest at diagnosis, decreased at year 1, and then remained relatively constant thereafter. The mean total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels decreased at year 1 as compared with the time of diagnosis and then remained relatively constant. The lowest mean HDL cholesterol levels were found at the time of diagnosis, and these values rose with time. Comparison of lipid levels at different prednisone dosages and disease activity levels revealed that changes in triglyceride levels were mainly associated with changes in disease activity, changes in both total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels were associated with changes in the prednisone dosage and not disease activity, and low levels of HDL cholesterol were associated with active SLE, whereas the prednisone dosage was associated with increased levels of HDL cholesterol.
Conclusion: Factors intrinsic to SLE appear to alter lipid levels. Control of SLE may be the most important factor in improving abnormal lipid profiles, and paradoxically, prednisone therapy may improve abnormal lipid levels.