An analysis of the metabolic syndrome phenotype in systemic lupus erythematosus

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) not fully explained by classic risk factors. Metabolic syndrome (MetS) is associated with an increased risk of CHD in the general population and whilst its prevalence is increased in SLE, its phenotypic expression may differ. We studied 200 women with SLE and 100 controls and compared the prevalence of MetS and its individual components. We examined whether any SLE features were associated with MetS and whether MetS in SLE patients was associated with carotid plaque. Patients with SLE were more likely to meet the MetS criteria (age-adjusted OR 2.1 (1.1–3.8)). However, this was not due to increased central obesity (median waist circumference 84 cm vs. 82 cm, p = 0.65) but rather increased prevalence of hypertension (p <0.01) and low HDL-cholesterol (p = 0.01). In a multivariable analysis, age, disease duration, low complement C3 and corticosteroid use ever, were associated with the presence of MetS in SLE. Overall MetS was not associated with the presence of carotid plaque in either SLE or controls. We have shown that MetS is more prevalent in SLE, but the lupus-MetS phenotype reflects risk factor changes driven by disease activity and steroid exposure, rather than obesity. Reliance on clinical measures of central obesity to consider MetS in SLE is not reliable and continued attention to individual CHD risk factors is recommended.


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