Systemic lupus erythematosus and damage: What has changed over the past 20 years?
The young age of onset and chronic/relapsing nature of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) make SLE patients prone to develop and accrue organ damage as a result of long-standing disease activity and side effects of treatment. There is a growing interest in objectifying damage and identifying its risk factors. Still, the lack of therapeutic alternatives has led to difficulties in avoiding immunosuppressives particularly corticosteroids, which have been implicated in a large spectrum of organ damage in SLE patients. Moreover, it continues to be very challenging to determine what actually causes damage in different organ-systems. Cardiovascular disease continues to be one of the leading types of damage in patients with SLE, reported as early as 1976. Since then, many researchers have focused on identifying SLE or treatment-related and traditional risk factors. The same considerations are valid for other conditions, such as the occurrence of metabolic syndrome, osteoporosis, avascular necrosis, susceptibility to infections, etc. On the other hand, diverse risk factors contribute to the development of chronic kidney disease (CKD) in SLE. Most evidence suggests that high initial levels of serum creatinine, hypocomplementemia, nephrotic range proteinuria, concomitant uncontrolled hypertension, Black and Hispanic ancestry, non-adherence to treatment, and biopsy findings such as diffuse proliferative lupus nephritis (LN), a high chronicity index, tubular atrophy, and tubulointerstitial inflammation are risk factors for progression to end stage renal disease (ESRD) in LN. While cardiovascular disease, CKD and infections are leading causes of mortality in patients with SLE, hospitalizations are caused mostly by SLE disease flares and infections. Cognitive impairment and mood disorders are common in SLE but continue to impose a challenge on how to measure, manage and decipher the underlying pathogenesis. Nevertheless, they have a great impact on SLE patients' health-related quality of life (HRQoL) and social functioning. Also, skin manifestations, such as alopecia and scaring, cataracts, and sicca symptoms result in a significant decrease in HRQoL. In light of recent developments in SLE treatment, we can expect to enter a period of new-age targeted therapies that will enable us to reduce disease activity and glucocorticoid usage further and positively alter the trajectory of damage development and accrual in SLE.
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