What are the sexual predilections of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)?

Updated: Aug 04, 2021
  • Author: Christie M Bartels, MD, MS; Chief Editor: Herbert S Diamond, MD  more...
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Answer

More than 90% of cases of SLE occur in women, frequently starting at childbearing age. [35, 55] The use of exogenous hormones has been associated with lupus onset and flares, suggesting a role for hormonal factors in the pathogenesis of the disease. [56] The risk of SLE development in men is similar to that in prepubertal or postmenopausal women. Interestingly, in men, SLE is more common in those with Klinefelter syndrome (ie, genotype XXY), further supporting a hormonal hypothesis. In fact, a study by Dillon et al found that men with Klinefelter syndrome had a more severe course of SLE than women but a less severe course than other men. [29]

The female-to-male ratio peaks at 11:1 during the childbearing years. [57] A correlation between age and incidence of SLE mirrors peak years of female sex hormone production. Onset of SLE is usually after puberty, typically in the 20s and 30s, with 20% of all cases diagnosed during the first 2 decades of life. [58]

A review of the worldwide literature (predominantly North America, Europe, and Asia) found that the incidence of pediatric-onset SLE ranged from 0.36 to 2.5 per 100,000 per year and the prevalence ranged from 1.89 to 25.7 per 100,000. [59]

The prevalence of SLE is highest in women aged 14 to 64 years. SLE does not have an age predilection in males, although it should be noted that in older adults, the female-to-male ratio falls. [60] This effect is likely due to loss of the estrogen effect in older women.


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