About Lupus

Who Gets Lupus

Lupus affects 1.5 million Americans, and millions more worldwide.

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

Ninety percent are young women

The majority of people with lupus—90 percent—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.

Many men struggle with the idea that they have a “woman’s disease,” in fact the diagnosis has no connection to manliness. Find out more about lupus in men

Some 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 have mild disease, but most have a moderate disease that may be severe at times, but usually responds well to treatment.

Find out more about the many challenges of having a child with a serious chronic illness

Lupus discriminates against African American, Latina, and Native American women

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 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 (Lupus in Minorities; Nature vs. nurture) cohort? Where are we heading? Read the PubMed abstract