Although challenging, developing evidence-based approaches to an early and accurate diagnosis of systemic lupus erythematosus is a key approach to preventing disease and lupus-associated morbidity and mortality. Advances in our understanding of preclinical and incomplete lupus erythematosus have enabled the identification of risk factors that may predict disease and the development of potential strategies aimed at primary prevention. Emerging data support the notion that there is a temporal disease progression from initial asymptomatic autoimmunity (preclinical lupus) through early clinical features of the disease (incomplete lupus erythematosus) to finally becoming fully classifiable systemic lupus erythematosus (complete lupus erythematosus). Here, we review the demographic, clinical, biomarker as well as genetic and environmental features that are reported to increase the risk of disease progression. Based on these risk factors, we propose a clinical care pathway for patients with early disease. We envisage that such a pathway, through early identification of disease, may improve patient outcomes, while reducing health care costs.
Keywords: Systemic lupus erythematosus; biomarkers; care pathway; morbidity prevention.
© The Author(s) 2016.