World Lupus Day
Late Onset Lupus Fact Sheet

The first-ever World Lupus Day will be on Monday, May 10. The observance coincides with the 7th International Congress on Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) and Related Conditions taking place in New York City. World Lupus Day will focus on the need for improved patient healthcare services, increased research into the causes of and a cure for lupus, enhanced physician diagnosis and treatment of lupus, and better epidemiological data on lupus globally.

Why World Lupus Day

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects millions of people worldwide, both directly and indirectly. It is under-recognized as a global health problem by the public, health professionals, and governments, driving the need for greater awareness. Early recognition, diagnosis and treatment of lupus help to slow the debilitating effects of the disease. Lupus can be difficult to diagnose, however, because symptoms often mimic common illnesses. Improving awareness of lupus symptoms will save lives.

Late Onset Lupus Fact Sheet

  • Lupus can occur at any age, in either sex, in any race.

  • 15% of people with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) develop it later in life after age 55.

  • Late onset lupus affects women 8 times more often than men. Compared with younger SLE patients, late onset lupus affects a higher percentage of men.

  • Late onset lupus is found primarily in Caucasians, but occurs in all races.

  • Symptoms in most cases are relatively mild and commonly include: arthritis, pleurisy (chest pain with deep breathing), pericarditis(inflammation of the sac around the heart), muscle aches, dry eyes and dry mouth (Overlap syndrome).

  • Uncommon symptoms include: fever, swollen lymph glands, seizure, psychoses, and Raynaud's Phenomenon (fingers turn blue or white in the cold).

  • Because symptoms of lupus in older people mimic other diseases, eg., rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren's syndrome, polymyalgia rheumatica, distinguishing among them is difficult and may result in a delayed or missed diagnosis.

  • Severe kidney involvement is less common in late onset lupus.

  • The average age of onset is 59 years; average age at diagnosis is 62 years.

  • As a rule, older people with lupus do better and their lupus can be managed with conservative therapy. When corticosteroids are required, symptoms are controlled with lower doses (i.e., less than 25 mg/day for one month).

  • Drug-induced lupus occurs more often in older people because they are more likely to have conditions (high blood pressure, heart disease) that require treatment that may cause the symptoms of lupus. Symptoms generally fade when the medication is discontinued.

  • People with late onset lupus have a good survival rate and rarely die of the disease or complications of therapy when treated conservatively.

For additional information, please read the Systemic Lupus Erythematosus article.

(Source: With the kind permission of the Lupus Foundation of America,

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Last Editorial Review: 12/29/2004