Prevention of lupus death (SLE death) requires early recognition and appropriate therapeutic management. SLE is one of the more fatal forms of rheumatic diseases, and non-Caucasian races tend to die from it more. In a study by the CDC of SLE death rates from 1979 – 1998, death rates have increased by about 70% among black women, age 45 – 64.

SLE mortality is frequently caused by active SLE, or associated organ failure, infection, or cardiovascular disease. Some studies have shown that renal disease may account for excess of SLE death among blacks. Also, according to researchers, the higher death rates among blacks may be partly explained by the fact that blacks get lupus more than whites to begin with. There might be other variables as well, such as later diagnosis, problems in access to care, or less effective treatments.

The report outlines there may have been several limitations within the study. The first is that the death rates for lupus may have been underestimated. Because of multiple cause-of death data, other causes of death such as kidney disease and heart disease may have been listed as the actual cause of death, rather than SLE. The second is that SLE may not have been diagnosed correctly prior to death, and therefore the data may have not been sufficient for the physicians underlying the cause of death. The final flaw in the study was that rates of racial backgrounds other than white and black were omitted from the study because the numbers were “too small for meaningful analysis”.


Lupus Death Rate


According to the CDC Reports from 1979-1998 the annual number of deaths increased from 879- 1,406. Of all SLE deaths, 36.4% occurred in people between the ages of 15-44 years. These lupus death statistics were based on data from death certificates. An SLE death was defined as any death of a U.S. resident coded with the underlying cause being systemic lupus erythematosus.

Of course, this isn’t the only study dealing with lupus and death. A study from Canada confirmed it 2006 that death from lupus actually decreased over the last 3 decades in lupus death rates overall. However, SLE rates have increased in circulatory disease, renal disease, and infection. Cardiovascular disease seems to be of a particular concern.

Preventing excess and premature deaths will entail early recognition, appropriate therapeutic management, compliances with treatment, and improved treatment of long-term consequences (such as renal disease). Future studies by the CDC will examine further why these death rates exist and how lupus death rates can be reduced.