How Systemic Lupus Affects Children

In autoimmune diseases like lupus, the immune system, which normally attacks foreign invaders like viruses and bacteria, turns against the body’s own cells and tissues. Ninety percent of adult lupus occurs in women in their child-bearing years, but lupus can also be diagnosed in men and children.

“We see systemic lupus in girls at the age of puberty where the disease is similar to adult lupus, but we also have patients as young as 4 to 6 years old. In these younger patients, males are more likely to be affected than in adult lupus. Just as in adult lupus, pediatric lupus is more common in African Americans,” says Emma Jane MacDermott, MD, who specializes in pediatric rheumatology at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.

Systemic lupus has been diagnosed in 5,000 to 10,000 children and teenagers in the United States. In adults, lupus is 10 times more likely in women than in men, and among children, girls are affected 4 times more frequently than boys. The average age of diagnosis for pediatric lupus is just over the age of 12.

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