During the last few decades, the prognosis for patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (LE) has changed from high early mortality to a more chronic longterm course. Although the prevalence of LE has been estimated at 20-50/100,000, data concerning the situation of LE patients in Germany are sparse. Since 2001, a documentation within the German Lupus Self-Help Organisation scheduled for a period of 10 years (LULA) has been recording at the patient level the actual status and the long-term course of a large group of LE patients. A questionnaire adapted from the German rheumatological database is updated once a year and sent to all members.In 2001, 1033 members participated in the documentation. Of these, 92.2% were women (mean age 45.8 years) with a mean disease duration of 9.9 years. 37.6% were employed, and 24.5% were on early retirement. 50.2% rated their overall health status as "not so good" or "poor". Most were receiving treatment with [hydroxy-]chloroquine (35.2%) or azathioprine (21.9%), while 67.9% were receiving corticosteroids. The most frequent comorbidities reported were hypertension (33%), scarring skin disease (24.4%), osteoarthritis (25.2%), osteoporosis (24%), psychiatric disorders/depression (22.9%) and chronic renal disease (22%). Thromboembolic events were reported in 18.5%, myocardial infarction in 2.3% and stroke in 4.8% of cases. Concerning their main contact person for health care, 63.6% specified the rheumatologist. In comparison with other cohort studies and in particular with the German rheumatological database, the data provided exclusively by patients are feasible. Concerning the severity of their disease, their treatment and their global assessment of health status, LULA participants are comparable with other LE patients and can be seen as representative of LE patients in Germany. Further assessment especially of long-term data are needed to obtain additional insights into the burden of the disease and the need for special medical care.