Cardiovascular disease in lupus: insights and updates

Curr Opin Rheumatol. 2013 Sep;25(5):597-605. doi: 10.1097/BOR.0b013e328363eba3.


Purpose of review: With improved management of the classical disease manifestations of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), cardiovascular disease (CVD) has emerged as one of the most important causes of morbidity and mortality. This review in particular focuses on progress over the past year in clinical and basic aspects of SLE-driven accelerated atherosclerosis.

Recent findings: Both subclinical CVD and CV events continue to be recognized at increased frequency in previously unstudied lupus cohorts and populations. Novel associations have been identified between lupus CVD and cognitive impairment, depression, and low-income status. In terms of pathogenesis, there is an ever-increasing focus on the innate immune system and, in particular, type I interferons (IFNs). Recent studies have drawn connections in both human and murine models between neutrophils, plasmacytoid dendritic cells, type I IFNs, and endothelial dysfunction. Whether treatments such as mycophenolate mofetil or statins have a role in prevention of lupus CVD is an area of intensive study.

Summary: CVD is a major complication of lupus and is now a leading cause of death among people living with this disease. As such, additional studies are needed in order to identify the most effective preventive strategies and most predictive vascular risk biomarkers. Type I IFNs may play a critical role in lupus CVD pathogenesis, and it is recommended that vascular outcomes be included in ongoing trials testing the efficacy of anti-IFN biologics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antimalarials / therapeutic use
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / diagnosis
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / immunology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / complications*
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / drug therapy
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors


  • Antimalarials
  • Biomarkers
  • Immunosuppressive Agents