Stroke is a major cause of morbidity, mortality and disability in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Patients with SLE have a two-fold increase in the risk of stroke with younger patients (ie, less than 50 years of age) having an ever-higher risk (up to 10-fold). Although the prognosis of SLE has improved, mortality due to cerebrovascular events (CVE) remains unchanged. Cerebrovascular disease may be directly attributed to the disease per se, as a manifestation of neuropsychiatric SLE, or be the result of traditional cardiovascular risk factors accompanying the disease. Elucidation of the underlying mechanism(s) of CVE is essential as it may guide the type of therapy (ie, antithrombotic or anticoagulant therapy versus immunosuppressive). Strokes attributed to lupus usually occur early in the course of the disease and are often accompanied by evidence of activity in other organs; those related to antiphospholipid antibodies can occur at any time, in patients with either active or inactive SLE. In this review, we discuss the epidemiology, work-up, management and primary prevention of CVE in patients with lupus. In view of the effectiveness of thrombolysis, physicians need to educate lupus patients and their families for the early recognition of the signs of stroke and the need to seek prompt attention. To this end acronyms, such as FAST (Facial drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulties and Time to call emergency service) can be used as a mnemonic to help detect and enhance responsiveness to the needs of a person having a stroke.
© 2019 The Mediterranean Journal of Rheumatology (MJR).