Introduction: To determine the prevalence and clinical/laboratory associations of subclinical atherosclerosis and impaired bone health in primary Sjogren's syndrome (SS).
Methods: 64 consecutive patients with primary SS, 77 with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and 60 healthy controls (HC) οf similar age and sex distribution were enrolled. Demographics, clinical/laboratory features, classical risk factors for atherosclerosis and osteoporosis (OP) were recorded. Intima-medial thickness scores (IMT) and carotid/femoral (C/F) plaque formation, as well as bone mineral density (BMD) and fractures were evaluated. Determinants of IMT/BMD levels and the presence of plaque were assessed by univariate and multivariate models. Serum levels of the Wnt signaling mediators Dickkopf-related protein 1(DKK1) and sclerostin were determined in primary SS patients and HC.
Results: Increased arterial wall thickening (IMT > 0.90 mm) and impaired bone health (defined as OP or osteopenia), were detected in approximately two-thirds of primary SS and RA patients, with a mean IMT value being significantly increased compared to HC. The presence of primary SS emerged as an independent risk factor for arterial wall thickening when traditional risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD) including age, sex, hypertension, smoking (pack/years), LDL and HDL levels were taken into account in a multivariate model [adjusted OR 95% (CI): 2.8 (1.04-7.54)]. In primary SS, age was revealed as independent predictor of increased IMT scores; age and lymphopenia as well as increased urine pH as independent determinants of C/F plaque formation and OP/osteopenia, respectively. An independent association of OP/osteopenia with plaque formation was observed when independent predictors for both variables were considered, with low DKK1 levels being associated with both plaque formation and lower BMD levels.
Conclusions: Comorbidities such as subclinical atherosclerosis and impaired bone health occur frequently in primary SS, in association with disease related features and traditional risk factors. Wnt signaling mediators are potentially involved in the pathogenesis of both entities.