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Gender Differences in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus


Gender Differences in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Sherif Z Yacoub Wasef. Gend Med.


Background: Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is known to be much more prevalent in females than in males, but the cause of this sexual predilection is not established. In addition, much controversy surrounds the differences in manifestations of SLE in both sexes.

Objective: This article reviews the possible etiologies of the greater prevalence of SLE in females, as well as the differences in the clinical presentation of the disease in both sexes.

Methods: Relevant studies were identified through a PubMed search for articles published between 1960 and 2001; no language restrictions were applied. Search terms included lupus, SLE, and gender differences. Books and online resources were also consulted.

Results: Potential causes of the female predilection for SLE included the effects of estrogen and its hydroxylation, decreased androgen levels, hyperprolactinemia, and differences in gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) signaling. Clinical manifestations of SLE included females having more frequent relapses, but the incidence of severe relapses was the same in both sexes. Raynaud phenomenon, arthritis, and leukopenia were more common in women, whereas skin manifestations, serositis, and renal involvement were more common in men. For neurologic manifestations, females with SLE experienced more psychiatric symptoms and headaches, whereas males with SLE experienced more seizures and peripheral neuropathy. Males with SLE also tended to have more severe renal disease and cardiorespiratory involvement.

Conclusions: The increased frequency of SLE among women may be attributed to differences in the metabolism of sex hormones and/or GnRH. Though less common in men, when it does occur SLE tends to run a more severe course-an important consideration in the diagnosis and follow-up of male patients with SLE.

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