Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) predominantly affects young women in their 20s. In 40 out of 250 (16%) patients with SLE seen in our hospital disease onset occurred after the age of 50. The interval between the time of onset and diagnosis was five years in this older group compared with three years in the younger group. Arthritis, as a first symptom, was less common in the older onset group. During the follow up a lower incidence of arthritis, malar rash, photosensitivity, and nephropathy was found in the older onset group. In contrast, this group showed an increased incidence of myositis. High titres of anti-dsDNA tended to occur less often and the incidence of anti-Ro antibodies was lower in the older onset group. These features seem to distinguish patients with older onset SLE as a particular subset.
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