What is SLE?

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic, auto-immune disease of unknown cause where the patient’s body makes large quantities of blood proteins called anti-bodies that react against the person’s own tissues.


Lupus is the Latin word for wolf. Erythematosus means red rashes. In 1851, Dr. Cazenave discovered red rashes on a patient’s face that looked like wolf bites. He named the rash Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE).

In 1885, Sir William Osler recognised that many people with lupus had a disease involving not only the skin but many other organs or systems. He named the disease Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE).

Types of Lupus

Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE)

  • Only involves the skin
  • Rarely attack other organ

Systematic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)

  • Can attack any organ such as kidneys, lungs, brain, joints, etc
  • Can be fatal


About 90% of SLE sufferers are women while about 10% are men and children.
About 90% of women with SLE are in their childbearing years, within the range of 15 to 50 years old.

Ratio of SLE sufferers :
In the West, among Afro-Carribeans 1 in 250-500 people
USA – 1 in 2,000 people
China – 1 in 1,000 people

In Malaysia, it is estimated that more than 10,000 people have been diagnosed with SLE over the past 30 years. However, this number may be only the tip of the iceberg. The Malaysian SLE Association believes that there are many more SLE sufferers in Malaysia who have not been diagnosed.