Systemic Lupus Erythematosus SLE also called Lupus, is a chronic inflammatory disease affecting the skin, joints, kidneys, lungs, nervous system, and/or other organs of the body, either simultaneously or at different times. Most commonly found symptoms are skin rashes and arthritis.  It mostly affects women, in their prime child-bearing age. Depression is often associated with Lupus and can cause an early development of Cardio vascular disease in the form of Atherosclerosis (the hardening of vessels) according to a research presented at the American College of Rheumatology Annual Scientific Meeting in Philadelphia.

Two independent research teams studied depression as a risk factor for additional health problems in Lupus patients. In the first study, researchers evaluated the biological and psychological risk factors associated with Atherosclerosis—the presence of carotid plaque or coronary artery calcium— in women with lupus.

The researchers, from the University of Pittsburgh, examined 161 women with lupus who had no prior history of cardiac events. Participants were examined for cardiovascular risk factors, lupus activity and depression. Additionally, they scanned their coronary arteries to determine the presence of coronary artery calcium—and performed a carotid artery ultrasound to detect the presence of plaque in the arteries.

Researchers found that 27 percent of the women studied had symptoms of depression and 63 percent of the women studied had Atherosclerosis. They also determined that women with lupus who showed symptoms of depression were at nearly a four-fold risk for having Atherosclerosis. This is very exciting, because depression can be treated. If we help people with lupus to reduce their depressive symptoms in addition to helping them with general disease management, then maybe this will reduce their risk for developing a cardiovascular disease.

In the second study, researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, noted that while the link between cardiovascular disease and depression is well established in the general population, few studies evaluated this relationship specifically among people with Lupus. They followed 725 patients with lupus over five years. Researchers noted that living in poverty, traditional cardiovascular risk and disease, and lupus disease activity were all significant predictors of depression in the participants. This study highlights the relationship among cardiovascular diseases and depression in lupus.

Conclusion: Depression is associated with sub clinical Atherosclerosis in women with SLE, independent of age, education, hypertension, CRP and adiposity. This is important as in that mental health factors are modifiable. Interventions that reduce depressive symptoms may forestall cardiovascular disease in SLE.

This is good news for the medical fraternity as now we know that doctors and family members have the potential to alleviate depression in order to improve the health of Lupus patients by preventing them from developing a heart disease.

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