New Study Explores the Relationship between Subclinical Atherosclerosis and Retinal Vascular Impairment in People with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
A new study explores the relationship between subclinical atherosclerosis and retinal vascular impairment (conditions affecting blood circulation behind the eye) in people with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Thickness of the carotid artery or carotid intima media thickness (IMT) is used as marker of subclinical atherosclerosis. Researchers found that people with SLE have higher cardiovascular (CV) risk indicators and lower retinal vessel density (VD, the percentage of blood vessels in the retina of the eye) than healthy people.
A group of 77 participants were recruited for the study – 43 people with SLE and 34 healthy people who served as the control group. CV risk was evaluated based on the guidelines from the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association. Both groups underwent an optical coherence tomography angiography (OCTA) exam, a non-invasive imaging technique that examines blood vessels in the eye, and a carotid ultrasound (an imaging test that looks at the arteries delivering blood to the brain and head) to calculate carotid IMT. Researchers found:
- People with SLE had higher triglycerides (a type of fat that can raise the risk of heart disease) and triglyceride glucose (TyG), which can be a potential biomarker of CV risk in lupus
- Lower retinal VD was observed in the SLE group compared to healthy people • IMT values were similar between healthy people and those with SLE
- IMT was found to be an independent risk factor for retinal vascular impairment which suggests that an OCTA exam could play an important role in evaluating CV involvement in SLE
This study demonstrates that OCTA could be a non-invasive procedure to evaluate CV involvement in people with SLE at the preclinical stage. More studies are needed to further explore the relationship between eye health and the heart overtime, but also look at the impact of different immunosuppressive drugs. Learn more about lupus and heart health.
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