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PLoS One. 2018 May 3;13(5):e0196103. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0196103. eCollection 2018.

Cognitive dysfunction improves in systemic lupus erythematosus: Results of a 10 years prospective study.

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Lupus Clinic, Dipartimento di Medicina Interna e Specialità Mediche, Sapienza University of Rome, Viale del Policlinico, Rome, Italy.
Dipartimento di Neurologia e ORL, Sapienza Università di Roma, Rome, Italy.



Cognitive impairment (CI) has been described in 3-80% of Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients but only short-term studies evaluated its over-time changes, suggesting that CI is usually a stable finding. We aimed at evaluating the changes of SLE-related CI in a 10-years prospective single center cohort study.


We evaluated 43 patients (M/F 5/38; mean age = 45.7±10.1 years; mean disease duration = 230.8±74.3 months) at baseline (T0) and after 10 years (T1). A test battery designed to detect fronto-subcortical dysfunction across five domains (memory, attention, abstract reasoning, executive and visuospatial function) was administered. A global cognitive dysfunction score (GCD) was obtained and associated with clinical and laboratory features.


Prevalence of CI was 20.9% at T0 and 13.9% at T1 (P = NS). This impairment was prevalently mild at T0 (55.5%) and mild or moderate at T1 (36.3% for both degrees). After 10 years, CI improved in 50% of patients, while 10% worsened. Impaired memory (P = 0.02), executive functions (P = 0.02) and abstract reasoning (P = 0.03) were associated with dyslipidemia at T0. Worsening of visuospatial functions was significantly associated with dyslipidemia and Lupus Anticoagulant (P = 0.04 for both parameters). Finally, GCD significantly correlated with chronic damage measured by SLICC/damage index at T0 (r = 0.3; P = 0.04) and T1 (r = 0.3; P = 0.03).


For the first time, we assessed CI changes over 10-years in SLE. CI improved in the majority of the patients. Furthermore, we observed an improvement of the overall cognitive functions. These results could suggest that an appropriate management of the disease during the follow-up could be able to control SLE-related CI.

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