Though only 15 percent of those diagnosed with systemic lupus erythamatosus (SLE) are 55 years old or older, be aware that lupus doesn’t discriminate by age, sex or race. You can still develop late-onset lupus (which is not very different from standard SLE, other than your age when the disease was diagnosed).
If you are a woman age 55 or older, you have an eight times greater chance of being diagnosed with lupus, compared to men of the same age. And, while men are less likely to get the disease, the number of cases of men getting lupus over age 55 is greater than that of any other male age bracket.
Many otherwise healthy adults could mistake lupus for other conditions found in aging people: arthritis, pleurisy, pericarditis, muscle aches, dry eyes and dry mouth. This – along with how difficult it is to diagnose lupus – may lead to a number of early misdiagnoses. In fact, there is a delay of about three years between when the symptoms start and when a person is finally diagnosed with lupus -- on average, symptoms begin around age 59, but diagnosis isn't usually made until age 62.
The good news: Older adults who have lupus tend to respond better to treatment and have milder symptoms. Though every individual case is different, typically older adults with the disease can enjoy simpler treatment and lower doses of medicinal treatment.
Sources: Late Onset Lupus Fact Sheet. Lupus Foundation of America. January 31, 2009.