Prognosis and life expectancy

Lupus Foundation of America

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The prognosis of lupus is better today than ever before. With close follow-up and treatment, 80-90% of people with lupus can expect to live a normal life span.

It is true that medical science has not yet developed a method for curing lupus, and some people do die from the disease. However, for the majority of people living with the disease today, it will not be fatal.

Lupus varies in intensity and degree. Some people have a mild case, others moderate and some severe, which tends to be more difficult to treat and control. For people who have a severe flare-up, there is a greater chance that their lupus may be life-threatening.

People with non-organ threatening aspects of lupus can look forward to a normal lifespan if they:
  • Follow the instructions of their physician
  • Take their medication(s) as prescribed
  • Know when to seek help for unexpected side effects of a medication or a new manifestation of their lupus

Although some people with lupus have severe recurrent attacks that result in hospitalization, most people with lupus rarely require hospitalization. Especially those who maintain a healthy lifestyle.

New research brings unexpected findings each year. The progress made in treatment and diagnosis during the last decade has been greater than that made over the past 100 years. It is therefore a sensible idea to maintain control of a disease that tomorrow may be curable.

A common misperception about life expectancy

Some confusion about lupus life expectancy relates to the way research is communicated. 

Research that shows 80-90% of people with lupus live for more than 10 years is often misinterpreted as giving people with lupus only 10 years to live. It is important to understand that the "10 years" used in this context does not represent the number of years the person lived after their diagnosis, but rather the number of years involved in the study. 

These studies followed patients with lupus from the time of diagnosis for a period of ten years. At the end of this research period, researchers were able to conclude that 80-90% of the people enrolled were still alive. 

They did not continue to follow these patients to look at is what happened in years 11, 12, 15, 20 and so on. We know there are many people who have been living with lupus for 15, 25, 30 and even 40 years.

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