Systematic review of the epidemiology of systemic lupus erythematosus in the Asia-Pacific region: prevalence, incidence, clinical features, and mortality

Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2012 Feb;64(2):159-68. doi: 10.1002/acr.20683.


Objective: Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), a chronic multisystem autoimmune disease with a wide spectrum of manifestations, shows considerable variation across the globe, although there is little evidence to indicate its relative prevalence in Asia. This review describes its prevalence, severity, and outcome across countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

Methods: We conducted a systematic literature search using 3 groups of terms (SLE, epidemiology, and Asia-Pacific countries) of EMBase and PubMed databases and non-English language resources, including Chinese Wanfang, Korean KMbase, Korean College of Rheumatology, Japana Centra Revuo Medicina, Taiwan National Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations, and Taiwanese, Thai, and Vietnamese journals.

Results: The review showed considerable variation in SLE burden and survival rates across Asia-Pacific countries. Overall crude incidence rates (per 100,000 per year) ranged from 0.9-3.1, while crude prevalence rates ranged from 4.3-45.3 (per 100,000). Higher rates of renal involvement, one of the main systems involved at death, were observed for Asians (21-65% at diagnosis and 40-82% over time) than for whites. While infections and active SLE were leading causes of death, a substantial proportion (6-40%) of deaths was due to cardiovascular involvement. The correlation between the Human Development Index and 5-year survival was 0.83.

Conclusion: This review highlights the need to closely monitor Asian SLE patients in Asian countries for renal and cardiovascular involvement, especially those who may not receive proper treatment and are therefore at greater risk of severe disease. We hope this will encourage further research specific to this region and lead to improved clinical management.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Asia / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / diagnosis*
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / epidemiology*
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / physiopathology
  • Morbidity
  • Pacific Islands / epidemiology
  • Survival Rate