Objectives: Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD). Glucocorticoids are often used in the management of RA and might also contribute to the increased risk of metabolic syndrome (metS). Identifying metabolic alterations earlier and treating them together with disease-modifying therapy may be associated with better outcomes. Here, we aimed to investigate the frequency of metS and its components in treatment-naïve RA patients.
Methods: Fifty-three newly diagnosed treatment-naïve RA patients and 55 control subjects were enrolled. MetS was diagnosed using Adult Treatment Panel III report-defined criteria. We evaluated the metS-related metabolic and anthropometric alterations between the groups. RA patients were subdivided and those with and without metS were also compared with respect to disease-related parameters.
Results: MetS was more common in treatment-naïve newly diagnosed RA patients compared to controls (25 of 53 (47.1%) vs 9 of 55 (16.4%), respectively (p = 0.001; OR, 4.56; 95% CI 1.86-11.16). All evaluated anthropometric and metabolic parameters were similar in both groups. However, there was a trend to lower LDL and HDL cholesterol levels in RA patients. Furthermore, among those with metS, the number of fulfilled metS criteria items were higher in RA patients, compared to controls (p < 0.001). Interestingly, more RA patients fulfilled metS criteria with a glucose measurements item compared to controls (p < 0.001).
Conclusion: MetS was more common in newly diagnosed and treatment-naïve RA patients compared to controls. MetS, along with tendency to present paradoxical and atherogenic lipid profiles in RA patients, may be among the underlying mechanisms of increased CVD.