• Vol. 27 No. 1, 35–41
  • 15 January 1998

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus in Singapore



The major initial clinical manifestations of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) were skin and mucous membrane involvement (52%), fever and malaise (48%), arthritis and arthralgias (44%). Lupus nephritis was diagnosed in 74% of patients and diffuse proliferative nephritis was the commonest histologic picture encountered. Except for a higher prevalence of anti-SS-A (Ro) (63%), other autoantibodies were within the normal range reported from Western countries. There was no significant association between HLA-A, B or DR specificities in 51 Chinese patients, nor was there any differences seen in the polymorphism of tumour necrosis factor alpha gene (TNF-α).

Arthritis was less commonly seen in males with SLE. Prevalences of leukopenia and antibodies to anti-SS-A (Ro) and anti-La (SS-B) antigens were lower in men. Late onset lupus patients (>50 years of age) tended to have more insidious onset of disease, lower female predominance and less frequent complaints of fever, alopecia, arthritis and malar rash at presentation. The causes of death were often treatment related.

Survival studies among 183 SLE patients during the period from 1970 to 1980 revealed a 5- and 10-year survival rate of 70% and 60%, respectively. Infections and active lupus disease were 2 major causes of death. Research into SLE is targeted at increasing our understanding of the disease process and improving outcome and prognosis.

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) or lupus (“wolf” in Latin) in short, is an autoimmune disorder of unknown aetiology(ies) and characterised by diverse clinical manifestations as well as a plethora of autoantibodies in the sera of patients. The clinical features of SLE vary in different population groups. Ethnic and genetic factors may be important in determining the expression and severity of disease.

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