Systemic lupus erythematosus: epidemiology, outcomes and burden

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The estimates of incidence and prevalence of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in Europe are 1.5-4.9 per 100 000 persons-years and 30-70 per 100 000 people, respectively. Over the last 50 years, survival in SLE patients has improved significantly. Moreover, immunosuppressive treatment resulted in a decreased risk of death from active disease, whereas infections and cardiovascular disease have become the main causes of death in SLE populations. Almost 70% of SLE patients have recurrent course of disease, although long-term remissions or persistent disease activity also occur in a proportion of patients. Annually, every third SLE patient develops moderately severe or severe flares. Recurrent flares, complications of immunosuppressive treatment and comorbidity are associated with accrual of organ damage that increases the risk of death. SLE patients have impaired health-related quality of life correlating with both disease activity and organ damage. Being on remission of SLE or on low disease activity is associated with better outcomes, including lower mortality and risk of damage or flares, improved quality of life, lower hospitalisation rates and costs. Glucocorticoids remain the mainstay of SLE treatment, although their use should be limited, e.g. by proper administration of immunosuppressive or antiinflammatory agents that have steroid-sparing activity. Treatment and prevention of infections and cardiovascular outcomes are also essential for further improvement of survival of SLE patients.

Key words

Systemic lupus erythematosus, epidemiology, mortality, outcomes, treatment.