Who Gets Lupus

Just within the United States alone, more than 1.5 million people are living with lupus and millions of people worldwide have lupus.

Although the cause of lupus is unknown, genetics and hormones are thought to play a role.

Ninety percent are women

  • The majority of people with lupus—90%—are female, and most first develop signs and symptoms of the illness between the ages of 15 and 44.
  • As adults, far fewer males than females develop lupus.
  • The scenario is much different under age 18 and over age 50, when as many males as females have the disease.

Men with lupus

Some men struggle with the idea that they have a disease that is mostly diagnosed in women, when in fact the diagnosis has no connection to manliness and should not be considered in this way. Click here to learn more about men with lupus.

Children are affected

An estimated 5,000 to 10,000 of the 1.5 million Americans with lupus are diagnosed while under the age of 18.

About one in three children with lupus has a mild disease, but most have a moderate disease that may be severe at times, but usually responds well to treatment. Click here to learn more about lupus in children.

African-American, Latina, and Native American women are at greater risk

African-American women are three times more likely than Caucasian women to get lupus and develop severe symptoms, with as many as 1 in every 250 African-American women affected.

And the disease is two times more prevalent in Asian American and Latina women than it is in Caucasian women. Women of Native American descent are also disproportionately affected.

The famous “Lupus in Minorities: Nature Versus Nurture” (LUMINA) study—a large multi-ethnic, multi-regional, and multi-institutional examination of lupus begun in 1993—found that genetic and ethnic factors are more important than socioeconomic ones in influencing disease activity. The study tracked death, damage, disability, and disease activity. The results also suggest that there are probably other genetic factors affecting the presentation of the disease in the African American and Latino communities.

The researchers have published numerous papers reporting study findings on the relative contribution of genetic and socioeconomic factors on the course and outcome of lupus in Latinos, African Americans, and Caucasians.

LUMINA findings include:

  • African-Americans and Latinas with lupus tend to develop the disease earlier in life, experience greater disease activity such as kidney problems, and overall, have more complications than Caucasian patients.
  • Latinas had a poorer prognosis overall than Caucasian women, were more likely to have kidney involvement and damage, and showed a more rapid rate of kidney failure.
  • African-Americans have a higher frequency of neurological problems such as seizures, hemorrhage, and stroke.
  • Latinas experience a higher level of cardiac disease.

What have we learned from a 10-year experience with the LUMINA cohort? Where are we heading? Click here to read the PubMed abstract.