Atherosclerosis develops early in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients and is an important cause of mortality. Vitamin D deficiency is found to be associated with cardiovascular disease and autoimmunity. We evaluated the extent of carotid subclinical atherosclerosis and analyzed its correlation with vitamin D in SLE. One hundred and two female patients with SLE and 52 normal controls (NCs) were recruited. The mean carotid intima-media thickness (IMT) of SLE patients was 0.41 ± 0.08 mm, which was higher than that of NCs (0.32 ± 0.08 mm, p = 0.012). In addition, carotid plaques were more frequent and the plaque index was higher in SLE patients than in NCs (0.68 ± 1.39 vs. 0.26 ± 0.87, p = 0.026). Carotid IMT was correlated with age, body mass index, SLE disease activity index, and aspirin use in SLE patients. The plaque index was correlated with renal involvement. Vitamin 25(OH)D3 level was not correlated with carotid IMT, plaque index or disease activity markers. In SLE, the risk of cardiovascular disease is higher than that in NCs, which may be derived from systemic inflammation. It may be not suitable to assess vitamin D as a marker of disease activity or subclinical atherosclerosis in SLE patients.
Keywords: Systemic lupus erythematosus; atherosclerosis; carotid artery; disease activity; vitamin D.
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