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1.  Adiponectin and Atherosclerosis in Rheumatoid Arthritis 
Mediators of Inflammation  2014;2014:358949.
In the present study, we examined the potential impact of adiponectin on carotid ultrasound determined atherosclerosis in 210 (119 black and 91 white) RA patients in mixed regression models. Total adiponectin concentrations were smaller in patients with compared to those without the metabolic syndrome (MetS) defined waist criterion (median (range) = 6.47 (1.23–34.54) versus 8.38 (0.82–85.30) ng/mL, P = 0.02, resp.); both total and high molecular weight (HMW) adiponectin concentrations were larger in patients with compared to those without joint deformities (7.97 (0.82–85.30) and 3.51 (0.01–35.40) versus 5.36 (1.29–19.49) and 2.34 (0.01–19.49) ng/mL, P = 0.003 and 0.02, resp.). Total and HMW adiponectin concentrations were associated with carotid artery plaque in patients with MetS waist (odds ratio (95% CI) = 0.87 (0.76–0.99) and 0.92 (0.85–0.99) per 1-standard deviation increment, P = 0.02 for both) and those without joint deformities (odds ratio (95% CI) = 0.94 (0.88–0.99) and 0.94 (0.89–0.99), P = 0.03 for both). Plaque prevalence was lower in patients without compared to those with joint deformities (23.4% versus 42.6, P = 0.004 in multivariable analysis). In RA patients with abdominal obesity or no clinically evident joint damage, adiponectin concentrations are reduced but nevertheless associated with decreased carotid atherosclerosis.
PMCID: PMC4066719  PMID: 24994945
2.  Marked Independent Relationship between Circulating Interleukin-6 Concentrations and Endothelial Activation in Rheumatoid Arthritis 
Mediators of Inflammation  2013;2013:510243.
We examined the potential impact of conventional compared with nonconventional cardiovascular risk factors including interleukin-6 levels on endothelial activation in RA. Circulating soluble E-selectin, vascular cell adhesion molecule-1, intercellular adhesion molecule-1, and monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 concentrations were measured in 217 African patients (112 black and 105 white) with RA. In comprehensive confounder adjusted mixed regression models, 5 conventional and 4 nonconventional cardiovascular risk factors were associated (P = 0.05 to <0.0001) with endothelial activation. Interleukin-6 was the only risk factor related to each endothelial activation molecule and independently contributed by 18% and significantly more than other risk factors to the variation in overall endothelial activation as estimated by an SD (z) score of endothelial activation molecule concentrations. The independent interleukin-6-overall endothelial activation relationships were reproduced in various subgroups. Interleukin-6 concentrations relate consistently, markedly, and to a larger extent than other cardiovascular risk factors to endothelial activation in RA. Assessment of interleukin-6 concentrations may enhance cardiovascular risk stratification in RA.
PMCID: PMC3880757  PMID: 24453423
3.  Rheumatoid Arthritis Impacts on the Independent Relationships between Circulating Adiponectin Concentrations and Cardiovascular Metabolic Risk 
Mediators of Inflammation  2013;2013:461849.
Adiponectin and leptin are likely involved in the pathophysiology of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and therefore potential new therapeutic targets. Adiponectin inhibition could be expected to enhance cardiovascular metabolic risk. However, it is unknown whether RA changes the influence of adipokines on cardiovascular metabolic risk. We determined whether RA impacts on the independent relationships of circulating leptin and adiponectin concentrations with cardiovascular risk factors and carotid intima-media thickness (cIMT) in 277 black African subjects from a developing population; 119 had RA. RA impacted on the relationships of adiponectin concentrations with lipid concentrations and blood pressure, independent of confounders including adiposity (interaction P < 0.05). This translated into an association of adiponectin concentrations with more favorable lipid variables including HDL cholesterol (P = 0.0005), non-HDL cholesterol (P = 0.007), and triglyceride (P = 0.005) concentrations, total cholesterol-HDL cholesterol (P = 0.0002) and triglycerides-HDL cholesterol (P = 0.0003) ratios, and higher systolic (P = 0.0006), diastolic (P = 0.0004), and mean blood pressure (P = 0.0007) in RA but not non-RA subjects. Leptin was not associated with metabolic risk after adjustment for adiposity. The cIMT did not differ by RA status, and adipokine concentrations were unrelated to atherosclerosis. This study suggests that leptin and adiponectin inhibition may not alter overall cardiovascular risk and disease in RA.
PMCID: PMC3649499  PMID: 23690663
4.  Cardiovascular Disease Risk amongst African Black Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis: The Need for Population Specific Stratification 
BioMed Research International  2014;2014:826095.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) enhances the risk of cardiovascular disease to a similar extent as diabetes. Whereas atherogenesis remains poorly elucidated in RA, traditional and nontraditional risk factors associate similarly and additively with CVD in RA. Current recommendations on CVD risk stratification reportedly have important limitations. Further, reported data on CVD and its risk factors derive mostly from data obtained in the developed world. An earlier epidemiological health transition is intrinsic to persons living in rural areas and those undergoing urbanization. It is therefore conceivable that optimal CVD risk stratification differs amongst patients with RA from developing populations compared to those from developed populations. Herein, we briefly describe current CVD and its risk factor profiles in the African black population at large. Against this background, we review reported data on CVD risk and its potential stratification amongst African black compared to white patients with RA. Routinely assessed traditional and nontraditional CVD risk factors were consistently and independently related to atherosclerosis in African white but not black patients with RA. Circulating concentrations of novel CVD risk biomarkers including interleukin-6 and interleukin-5 adipokines were mostly similarly associated with both endothelial activation and atherosclerosis amongst African black and white RA patients.
PMCID: PMC4135170  PMID: 25157371
6.  Towards the elucidation of the true impact of adipocytokines on cardiovascular risk in rheumatoid arthritis 
Adipo(cyto)kines are mostly produced by adipose tissue and orchestrate the adverse impact of excess adiposity on cardiovascular risk. Adipokines also contribute importantly to the pathophysiology of rheumatoid arthritis. Congruent with data reported in previous investigations, Kang and colleagues report in this issue of Arthritis Research & Therapy that adipokine concentrations are further associated with metabolic risk and inflammation and that the leptin–adiponectin ratio associates with the carotid artery resistive index in rheumatoid arthritis. Guided by evidence reported thus far on cardiovascular risk, we discuss six reasons why careful elucidation of adipokine–cardiovascular risk relations is needed in rheumatoid arthritis.
PMCID: PMC4061720  PMID: 24611178
7.  Retinol Binding Protein 4 Concentrations Relate to Enhanced Atherosclerosis in Obese Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e92739.
Retinol binding protein 4 (RBP) enhances metabolic risk and atherogenesis. Whether RBP4 contributes to cardiovascular risk in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is unknown.
We assessed RBP4 concentrations and those of endothelial activation molecules including E-selectin, vascular cell adhesion molecule-1, intercellular adhesion molecule-1 and monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 by ELISA, and the common carotid artery intima-media thickness (cIMT) and carotid artery plaque by ultrasound in 217 (112 black and 105 white) patients with RA. Relationships were identified in potential confounder and mediator adjusted mixed regression models.
RBP4 concentrations were associated with systolic and mean blood pressure, and those of glucose and E-selectin (partial R = −0.207 (p = 0.003), −0.195 (p = 0.006), −0.155 (p = 0.03) and −0.191 (p = 0.007), respectively in all patients); these RBP4-cardiovascular risk relations were mostly reproduced in patients with but not without adverse traditional or non-traditional cardiovascular risk profiles. RBP4 concentrations were not associated with atherosclerosis in all patients, but related independently to cIMT (partial R = 0.297, p = 0.03) and plaque (OR (95%CI) = 2.95 (1.31–6.68), p = 0.008) in those with generalized obesity, as well as with plaque in those with abdominal obesity (OR (95%CI) = 1.95 (1.12–3.42), p = 0.01).
In the present study, RBP4 concentrations were inversely associated with metabolic risk and endothelial activation in RA. This requires further investigation. RBP4 concentrations were related to enhanced atherosclerosis in patients with generalized or/and abdominal obesity.
PMCID: PMC3961421  PMID: 24651174
8.  Independent associations of total and high molecular weight adiponectin with cardiometabolic risk and surrogate markers of enhanced early atherogenesis in black and white patients with rheumatoid arthritis: a cross-sectional study 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2013;15(5):R128.
Whether adiponectin levels associate with atherogenesis in RA is uncertain. We examined the independent relationships of total and high molecular weight (HMW) adiponectin concentrations with cardiometabolic risk and surrogate markers of enhanced early atherogenesis in black and white patients with RA.
We determined total and HMW adiponectin concentrations and those of endothelial activation molecules including soluble E-selectin, vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM-1), intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1) and monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1), in 210 (119 black and 91 white) RA patients. Associations were determined in potential confounder and mediator adjusted mixed regression models.
Total and HMW adiponectin concentrations related similarly to metabolic risk factors and endothelial activation. In all patients, total and HMW adiponectin concentrations associated paradoxically with high systolic, diastolic and mean blood pressure (partial R = 0.155 to 0.241, P ≤0.03). Ethnic origin did not impact on these relationships (interaction P ≥0.09). Total and HMW adiponectin concentrations associated with those of glucose in white and black patients respectively (partial R = -0.304, P = 0.006 and -0.246, P = 0.01). In black but not white participants, total and HMW adiponectin concentrations also related favorably to lipid profiles (partial R = 0.292 to 0.360, P ≤0.003 for HDL cholesterol concentrations, -0.269 to -0.299, P ≤0.006 for triglyceride concentrations and -0.302 to -0.390, P ≤0.002 for total-HDL cholesterol ratio) and the number of metabolic risk factors (partial R = -0.210 to -0.238, P ≤0.03). In white but not black patients, total and HMW adiponectin concentrations associated paradoxically with overall endothelial activation as estimated by a standard z-score of endothelial activation molecule concentrations (partial R = 0.262, P = 0.01 and 0.252, P = 0.02); in the respective models, the extent of effect of total and HMW adiponectin concentrations on endothelial activation was larger in white compared to black participants (standardized β (SE) = 0.260 (0.107) versus -0.106 (0.107), P = 0.01 and 0.260 (0.120) versus -0.100 (0.111), P = 0.02). The HMW-total adiponectin ratio related inconsistently to metabolic risk factors and not to endothelial activation.
In this study, total and HMW adiponectin concentrations associated with increased blood pressure parameters, and in white patients additionally with endothelial activation. The potential mechanism(s) underlying these paradoxical relationships between adiponectin concentrations and cardiovascular risk in RA merit further investigation.
PMCID: PMC3978563  PMID: 24286214
9.  Rheumatoid arthritis is associated with reduced adiposity but not with unfavorable major cardiovascular risk factor profiles and enhanced carotid atherosclerosis in black Africans from a developing population: a cross-sectional study 
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is characterized by inflamed joint-derived cytokine-mediated high-grade systemic inflammation that enhances cardiovascular metabolic risk and disease in developed populations. We investigated the potential impact of RA on cardiovascular risk factors including systemic inflammation and atherosclerosis, and their relationships in black Africans from a developing population.
We evaluated demographic features, adiposity indices, major traditional cardiovascular risk factors, circulating C-reactive protein and interleukin-6 concentrations and ultrasound determined carotid intima-media thickness (cIMT) in 274 black Africans; 115 had established RA. Data were analyzed in confounder-adjusted mixed regression models.
The body mass index and waist-height ratio were lower in RA compared to non-RA subjects (29.2 (6.6) versus 33.7 (8.0), P < 0.0001 and 0.58 (0.09) versus 0.62 (0.1), P = 0.0003, respectively). Dyslipidemia was less prevalent in patients with RA (odds ratio (OR) (95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.54 (0.30 to1.00)); this disparity was no longer significant after further adjustment for reduced adiposity and chloroquine use. RA was also not associated with hypertension, current smoking and diabetes. The number of major traditional risk factors did not differ by RA status (1.1 (0.8) versus 1.2 (0.9), P = 0.7). Circulating C-reactive protein concentrations were similar and serum interleukin-6 concentrations reduced in RA (7.2 (3.1) versus 6.7 (3.1) mg/l, P = 0.7 and 3.9 (1.9) versus 6.3 (1.9) pg/ml, P < 0.0001, respectively). The cIMT was 0.700 (0.085) and 0.701 (0.111) mm in RA and non-RA subjects, respectively (P = 0.7). RA disease activity and severity parameters were consistently unrelated to systemic inflammation, despite the presence of clinically active disease in 82.6% of patients. In all participants, adiposity indices, smoking and converting angiotensin inhibitor non-use were associated with increased systemic inflammation, which related to more atherogenic lipid profiles, and circulating low density lipoprotein concentrations were associated with cIMT (partial R = 0.153, P = 0.032); RA did not impact on these relationships (interaction P ≥0.1).
Among black Africans, patients with established RA experience reduced overall and abdominal adiposity but no enhanced major traditional risk factor and atherosclerosis burden. This study further suggests that an absent interleukin-6 release by inflamed RA joints into the circulation may account for this unaltered cardiovascular disease risk.
PMCID: PMC3979152  PMID: 23968456
10.  Obesity and carotid atherosclerosis in African black and Caucasian women with established rheumatoid arthritis: a cross-sectional study 
Reported findings on the relationship between adiposity and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ACVD) risk in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are contradictory and originate in developed populations. Approximately 80% of ACVD now occurs in developing countries. We aimed to ascertain the associations of clinical obesity measures with metabolic cardiovascular risk and atherosclerosis in African women with RA from a developing black and developed Caucasian population.
The associations of body mass index (BMI) as an indicator of overall adiposity and waist circumference and waist-to-height and waist-to-hip ratios as abdominal obesity indices with metabolic risk factors and high resolution B-mode ultrasound-determined carotid artery atherosclerosis were assessed in multivariate regression models in 203 African women with established RA; 108 were black and 95 Caucasian.
BMI and waist-to-height ratio were higher in African black compared to Caucasian women (29.9 (6.6) versus 25.3 (4.9) kg/m2, P = 0.002 and 0.59 (0.09) versus 0.53 (0.08), P = 0.01, respectively). Interactions between population origin and anthropometric measures were not related to metabolic risk factors but were associated with atherosclerosis, independent of confounders and individual terms. In all patients, BMI was related to systolic and diastolic blood pressure but not with serum lipid concentrations whereas abdominal obesity indices were associated with serum lipid concentrations but not with blood pressure values; obesity measures that were associated with plasma glucose concentrations comprised BMI, waist circumference and waist-to-height ratio (P < 0.05 in multiple confounder adjusted analysis). In African Caucasian women, BMI was associated with common carotid artery intima-media thickness (standardized β (95% confidence interval (CI)) = 0.21 (0.03 to 0.38)) and waist-to-hip ratio with plaque (odds ratio (OR) (95% CI) = 1.83 (1.03 to 3.25) for one standard deviation (SD) increase). These relationships were independent of multiple non-metabolic risk factors and explained by metabolic risk factors. In African black women with RA, none of the obesity measures was related to atherosclerosis.
Obesity in women with RA from developing groups of black African descent does not as yet translate into atheroma. In Caucasian women with RA that belong to developed populations, BMI and waist-to-hip ratio should be considered in ACVD risk assessment.
PMCID: PMC3446436  PMID: 22430029
11.  Aminotransferases are associated with insulin resistance and atherosclerosis in rheumatoid arthritis 
Serum aminotransferase concentrations are reportedly strongly associated with insulin resistance, an established cardiovascular risk factor that is not routinely assessed in clinical practice. We therefore explored the possibility that serum aminotransferase concentrations are as closely related to large artery disease as insulin resistance in rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Carotid artery plaque (ultrasonography), insulin resistance and liver enzymes (prior to methotrexate (MTX) were determined in 77 consecutive patients with RA (43 with and 34 without MTX).
Serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST) were associated with insulin resistance in univariate analysis (R = 0.54, p < 0.0001 and R = 0.36, p = 0.001, respectively) and after adjustment for age, gender and waist circumference (partial R = 0.43, p = 0.0001 and partial R = 0.37, p = 0.001, respectively). ALT and AST concentrations were higher in patients with plaque as compared to in those without plaque (ALT (u/l): 27 [22-32] versus 20 [18-23], p = 0.02; AST (u/l): 25 [21-28] versus 20 [19-22], p = 0.02). The odds ratios [95% CI] for plaque were 1.92 [1.14–3.24] (p = 0.01), 1.93 [1.17–3.16] (p = 0.009) and 1.82 [1.13–2.93] (p = 0.01) for 1 SD increase in ALT (~10 u/l) and AST (~6 u/l) concentrations and in logarithmically transformed homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) (~0.2 uU.mmol/ml.l), respectively. After adjustment for the potentially confounding characteristics of age, sex, hypertension and hypothyroidism in logistic regression models, ALT (p = 0.049) and AST concentrations (p = 0.027) remained associated with plaque whereas the HOMA-IR did not (p = 0.08). AST concentrations (p = 0.049) were associated with plaque independent of insulin resistance whereas the HOMA-IR (p = 0.1) was not associated with plaque independent of AST concentrations.
Within currently recommended reference ranges, serum aminotransferase concentrations may be strongly associated with insulin resistance and atherosclerosis in patients with RA. The measurement of aminotransferase concentrations could be a useful tool in cardiovascular risk stratification in patients with RA.
PMCID: PMC2174946  PMID: 17967187
12.  Biomarkers of endothelial dysfunction, cardiovascular risk factors and atherosclerosis in rheumatoid arthritis 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2005;7(3):R634-R643.
Cardiovascular event rates are markedly increased in rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and RA atherogenesis remains poorly understood. The relative contributions of traditional and nontraditional risk factors to cardiovascular disease in RA await elucidation. The present study comprises three components. First, we compared biomarkers of endothelial dysfunction (vascular cell adhesion molecule [VCAM]-1, intercellular adhesion molecule [ICAM]-1 and endothelial leucocyte adhesion molecule [ELAM]-1) in 74 RA patients and 80 healthy control individuals before and after controlling for traditional and nontraditional cardiovascular risk factors, including high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP), IL-1, IL-6 and tumor necrosis factor-α. Second, we investigated the potential role of an extensive range of patient characteristics in endothelial dysfunction in the 74 RA patients. Finally, we assessed associations between biomarkers of endothelial dysfunction and ultrasonographically determined common carotid artery intima–media thickness and plaque in RA. The three biomarkers of endothelial dysfunction, as well as hs-CRP, IL-1, IL-6 and tumor necrosis factor-α, were higher in patients than in control individuals (P < 0.0001). Patients were also older, exercised less and had a greater waist circumference, blood pressure and triglyceride levels (P ≤ 0.04). Five patients had diabetes. Differences in endothelial function were no longer significant between patients and controls (P = 0.08) only after both traditional and nontraditional cardiovascular risk factors were controlled for. In the 74 RA patients, IL-6 predicted levels of all three biomarkers (P ≤ 0.03), and rheumatoid factor titres and low glomerular filtration rate (GFR) both predicted levels of VCAM-1 and ICAM-1, independent of traditional cardiovascular risk factors (P ≤ 0.02). VCAM-1 was associated with common carotid artery intima–media thickness (P = 0.02) and plaque (P = 0.04) in RA. Patients had impaired endothelial function, less favourable traditional cardiovascular risk factor profiles, and higher circulating concentrations of hs-CRP and cytokines compared with healthy control individuals. Both traditional and nontraditional cardiovascular risk factors contributed to the differences in endothelial function between RA patients and healthy control individuals. IL-6, rheumatoid factor titres and low GFR were independently predictive of endothelial dysfunction in RA. Disease-modifying agents that effectively suppress both cytokine and rheumatoid factor production, and interventions aimed at preserving renal function may attenuate cardiovascular risk in RA.
PMCID: PMC1174955  PMID: 15899050
13.  Effects of disease modifying agents and dietary intervention on insulin resistance and dyslipidemia in inflammatory arthritis: a pilot study 
Arthritis Research  2002;4(6):R12.
Patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) experience excess cardiovascular disease (CVD). We investigated the effects of disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARD) and dietary intervention on CVD risk in inflammatory arthritis. Twenty-two patients (17 women; 15 with RA and seven with spondyloarthropathy) who were insulin resistant (n = 20), as determined by the Homeostasis Model Assessment, and/or were dyslipidemic (n = 11) were identified. During the third month after initiation of DMARD therapy, body weight, C-reactive protein (CRP), insulin resistance, and lipids were re-evaluated. Results are expressed as median (interquartile range). DMARD therapy together with dietary intervention was associated with weight loss of 4 kg (0–6.5 kg), a decrease in CRP of 14% (6–36%; P < 0.006), and a reduction in insulin resistance of 36% (26–61%; P < 0.006). Diet compliers (n = 15) experienced decreases of 10% (0–20%) and 3% (0–9%) in total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, respectively, as compared with increases of 9% (6–20%; P < 0.05) and 3% (0–9%; P < 0.05) in diet noncompliers. Patients on methotrexate (n = 14) experienced a reduction in CRP of 27 mg/l (6–83 mg/l), as compared with a decrease of 10 mg/l (3.4–13 mg/l; P = 0.04) in patients not on methotrexate. Improved cardiovascular risk with DMARD therapy includes a reduction in insulin resistance. Methotrexate use in RA may improve CVD risk through a marked suppression of the acute phase response. Dietary intervention prevented the increase in total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol upon acute phase response suppression.
PMCID: PMC153842  PMID: 12453315
cardiovascular risk; diet; DMARD; inflammatory arthritis
14.  Cardiovascular risk in rheumatoid arthritis versus osteoarthritis: acute phase response related decreased insulin sensitivity and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol as well as clustering of metabolic syndrome features in rheumatoid arthritis 
Arthritis Research  2002;4(5):R5.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients experience a markedly increased frequency of cardiovascular disease. We evaluated cardiovascular risk profiles in 79 RA patients and in 39 age-matched and sex-matched osteoarthritis (OA) patients. Laboratory tests comprised ultrasensitive C-reactive protein (CRP) and fasting lipids. Insulin sensitivity (IS) was determined by the Quantitative Insulin Sensitivity Check Index (QUICKI) in all OA patients and in 39 of the RA patients. Ten RA patients were on glucocorticoids. RA patients exercised more frequently than OA patients (χ2 = 3.9, P < 0.05). Nine RA patients and one OA patient had diabetes (χ2 = 4.5, P < 0.05). The median CRP, the mean QUICKI and the mean high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol were 9 mg/l (range, 0.5–395 mg/l), 0.344 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.332–0.355) and 1.40 mmol/l (95% CI, 1.30–1.49 mmol/l) in RA patients, respectively, as compared with 2.7 mg/l (range, 0.3–15.9 mg/l), 0.369 (95% CI, 0.356–0.383) and 1.68 mmol/l (95% CI, 1.50–1.85 mmol/l) in OA patients. Each of these differences was significant (P < 0.05). After controlling for the CRP, the QUICKI was similar in RA and OA patients (P = 0.07), while the differences in HDL cholesterol were attenuated but still significant (P = 0.03). The CRP correlated with IS, while IS was associated with high HDL cholesterol and low triglycerides in RA patients and not in OA patients. A high CRP (≥ 8 mg/l) was associated with hypertension (χ2 = 7.4, P < 0.05) in RA patients. RA glucocorticoid and nonglucocorticoid users did not differ in IS and lipids (P > 0.05). Excess cardiovascular risk in RA patients as compared with OA patients includes the presence of decreased IS and HDL cholesterol in RA patients. The latter is only partially attributable to the acute phase response. The CRP, IS, HDL cholesterol, triglycerides and hypertension are inter-related in RA patients, whereas none of these relationships were found in OA patients.
PMCID: PMC125299  PMID: 12223108
cardiovascular risk; osteoarthritis; rheumatoid arthritis
15.  Hyposecretion of the adrenal androgen dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate and its relation to clinical variables in inflammatory arthritis 
Arthritis Research  2001;3(3):183-188.
Hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal underactivity has been reported in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). This phenomenon has implications with regard to the pathogenesis and treatment of the disease. The present study was designed to evaluate the secretion of the adrenal androgen dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) and its relation to clinical variables in RA, spondyloarthropathy (Spa), and undifferentiated inflammatory arthritis (UIA). Eighty-seven patients (38 with RA, 29 with Spa, and 20 with UIA) were studied, of whom 54 were women. Only 12 patients (14%) had taken glucocorticoids previously. Age-matched, healthy women (134) and men (149) served as controls. Fasting blood samples were taken for determination of the erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), serum DHEAS and insulin, and plasma glucose. Insulin resistance was estimated by the homeostasis-model assessment (HOMAIR). DHEAS concentrations were significantly decreased in both women and men with inflammatory arthritis (IA) (P < 0.001). In 24 patients (28%), DHEAS levels were below the lower extreme ranges found for controls. Multiple intergroup comparisons revealed similarly decreased concentrations in each disease subset in both women and men. After the ESR, previous glucocorticoid usage, current treatment with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, duration of disease and HOMAIR were controlled for, the differences in DHEAS levels between patients and controls were markedly attenuated in women (P = 0.050) and were no longer present in men (P = 0.133). We concluded that low DHEAS concentrations are commonly encountered in IA and, in women, this may not be fully explainable by disease-related parameters. The role of hypoadrenalism in the pathophysiology of IA deserves further elucidation. DHEA replacement may be indicated in many patients with IA, even in those not taking glucocorticoids.
PMCID: PMC30711  PMID: 11299059
Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate; inflammatory arthritis

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