Inflammation: a pivotal link between autoimmune diseases and atherosclerosis

Autoimmun Rev. 2006 May;5(5):331-7. doi: 10.1016/j.autrev.2005.12.006. Epub 2006 Feb 3.


Premature coronary heart disease has emerged as a major cause of morbidity and mortality in systemic autoimmune diseases. Recent epidemiologic and pathogenesis studies have suggested a great deal in common between the pathogenesis of prototypic autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and that of atherosclerosis. Some of the most remarkable data in support of a link between autoimmunity and atherosclerosis comes from epidemiological studies of patients with autoimmune disorders (RA and SLE). Many epidemiologic observations have linked systemic inflammation with the cardiovascular events in autoimmune disease such as RA and SLE. Inflammation is increasingly being considered central to the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis and an important risk factor for vascular disease. Systemic inflammation may be regarded as accelerating the atherosclerotic process. Systemic levels of soluble inflammatory mediators such as C-reactive protein (CRP) have been associated with cardiovascular risk in the general population. CRP, or more specifically high sensitivity-hsCRP, is a marker of systemic inflammation that has been identified as a valid biomarker of cardiovascular risk. Furthermore, the immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory actions of statins may affect their utility in the context of chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease. Thus, effective control or dampening of inflammation, with such agents, should be included in the therapeutic armamentarium of autoimmune diseases with the aim of protecting against cardiovascular disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / blood
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / epidemiology
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / immunology*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / pathology
  • Atherosclerosis / blood
  • Atherosclerosis / epidemiology
  • Atherosclerosis / immunology*
  • Atherosclerosis / pathology
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / blood
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / epidemiology
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / immunology*
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / pathology