Understanding lupus

Is lupus a fatal disease?

The majority of people living with lupus can expect to live a normal life span

Lupus is not a universally fatal disease. In fact, today, with close follow-up and treatment, 80-90% of the people with lupus can expect to live a normal life span.

Lupus varies in intensity and degree. Some people have a mild case, others moderate and some severe, which tends to be more difficult to treat and control. For people who have a severe flare-up, there is a greater chance that their lupus may be life-threatening. People do die of this disease; however, the majority of people living with lupus today can expect to live a normal lifespan.

A Common Misperception about Life Expectancy

People frequently read in the literature that 80-90% of people with lupus live for more than 10 years. Unfortunately, this is often misinterpreted as people with lupus live for only 10 years. It is important to understand that the "10 years" does not represent the number of years the person will live, but rather the number of years involved in the study. The studies followed patients with lupus from the time of diagnosis for a period of ten years. At the end of this research period, researchers were able to conclude that 80-90% of the people enrolled were still alive. What this study did not look at is what happened in years 11, 12, 15, 20 and so on. We know there are many people who have been living with lupus for 15, 19, 25, 30 and 40 years.

Lupus is not a disease that is universally fatal to all. The majority of people with lupus today can expect to live a normal lifespan.

Medically reviewed on July 18, 2013