For Older Adults
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.