Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a multi-system autoimmune disorder mainly affecting young women. In this study, we aimed at investigating the clinical, laboratory and management characteristics of our SLE patients with an age of onset > or =50. Twenty patients with late onset SLE (> or =50 years) were identified from the records, on the basis of their first SLE-related symptoms (Group I). A hundred consecutive SLE patients with initial symptoms before the age of 50 were also selected as controls (Group II). Clinical, laboratory and management characteristics of the patients were recorded according to pre-defined protocol and compared by chi(2), Student's t-test and Fisher's exact test. Comparison of the demographic findings between the Group I (F/M: 18/2) and the Group II (F/M: 90/10) were as follows: the mean age of disease onset was 53.9 +/- 4.5 years vs. 26.3 +/- 9.2 years, mean time of follow-up was 44.2 +/- 40.5 months vs. 50.1 +/- 47.4 months, mean damage index was 0.6 +/- 0.6 vs. 0.58 +/- 1.4. There was no significant difference between the two groups with regard to clinical, laboratory parameters, damage index and immunosuppressive treatment characteristics. SLE-related manifestations were similar in two groups except fever (10% in the Group I vs. 41% in the Group II; p = 0.01). The only two patients with pulmonary fibrosis were found in the Group I (p = 0.027). The clinical and laboratory characteristics and the disease outcome in SLE patients with an age of onset > or =50 years did not show significant differences from the control SLE patients with a younger age of onset.