Objective: To determine the effects of ethnicity on disease manifestations in Oriental patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and to describe the risk of developing renal or central nervous system (CNS) involvement with time.
Methods: A retrospective study of 472 patients with SLE seen at the only Rheumatology Unit in Singapore. The effect of ethnicity on selected disease manifestations at diagnosis was assessed after adjusting for demographic variables using multiple logistic regression. The probability of developing selected disease manifestations with time was determined using the Kaplan-Meier product limit method.
Results: At diagnosis, Malays had a higher risk of renal or CNS involvement than Chinese (OR 2.26, 95% CI 1.21 to 4.21, and OR 3.07, 95% CI 1.01 to 9.34, respectively), and Indians a lower risk of malar rash and a higher risk of oral ulcers than Chinese (OR 0.30, 95% CI 0.13 to 0.68, and OR 2.90, 95% CI 1.45 to 7.34, respectively). The prevalence of renal or CNS involvement in the entire cohort increased with time, reaching 75.6% (95% CI 66.1% to 85.0%) and 16.7% (95% CI 11.7% to 21.6%), respectively, after 18 years of disease.
Conclusion: Ethnicity influenced disease manifestations at diagnosis in this cohort of Oriental patients with SLE. Renal or CNS involvement developed in previously unaffected patients up to 18 years after diagnosis, highlighting the need for continued vigilance in patients with lupus.