Systemic lupus erythematosus in the elderly

Autoimmun Rev. 2008 Jan;7(3):235-9. doi: 10.1016/j.autrev.2007.11.014. Epub 2007 Dec 3.


Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic autoimmune disease, characterized by multisystemic involvement. Late onset SLE represents a specific sub-group of the disorder, beginning above 50-65 years of age. The incidence of late onset SLE ranges in the interval of 12-18% and the course of the disease is considered to be more benign. According to several authors, skin manifestations, photosensitivity, arthritis and nephritis, occur rarely in the elderly patients with late SLE onset; prevalence of serositis, lung involvement and Sjögren's syndrome were observed more often. Late onset SLE patients manifested higher rate of positive findings of rheumatoid factors, as well as of anti-Ro and anti-La antibodies; and the lower occurrence of anti-RNP antibodies and hypocomplementaemia. A slow onset of the disorder, non-specific manifestations at the beginning of the illness and less frequent prevalence of SLE in the elderly often result in late diagnosis. Treatment of the disease depends on its clinical manifestations. NSAID's, antimalarials or low doses of glucocorticoids are used for the less severe forms. Immunosuppressives and higher doses of glucocorticoids are the treatments of choice for more severe organ involvements and complications. A multidisciplinary approach is recommended for the treatment of late onset SLE patients.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age of Onset
  • Aged*
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use
  • Autoantibodies / blood
  • Humans
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / diagnosis
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / drug therapy
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / physiopathology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Rheumatoid Factor / blood


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Autoantibodies
  • Rheumatoid Factor