The objective of this study was to analyse whether primary antiphospholipid syndrome (PAPS) may precede and modify the characteristics of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Out of the total 362 SLE patients in our service, 223 patients had antiphospholipid antibodies (aPL), of whom 110 met the criteria of antiphospholipid syndrome. In 26 cases (7.2%) PAPS appeared 5.5 years before the onset of lupus (PAPS+SLE Group). Their clinical findings were compared to lupus patients without (SLE only Group, n = 26) and with secondary APS (SLE+SAPS Group, n = 26). The prevalence of deep venous thrombosis, stroke/TIA, recurrent fetal loss, coronary heart disease and myocardial infarction was significantly higher in PAPS+SLE Group as compared to SLE only Group. The difference in prevalence of fetal loss (P = 0.014) between PAPS+SLE and SLE+SAPS Groups was also recorded. On comparison to PAPS+SLE Group, patients without APS (SLE only Group) were younger at onset of lupus, with more frequent flares and a higher prevalence of WHO type III/IV nephritis (P = 0.007), requiring higher doses of cyclophosphamide and corticosteroids. Lupus started in the form of PAPS in 7.2% of our SLE patients, who presented with more thrombotic and less inflammatory complications than in SLE patients without a prior or with a following secondary APS. Considering the long latency between the two diseases, PAPS may be a forerunner of lupus, but it may also coexist with SLE as an independent autoimmune disorder.
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