This study aims to compare the differences among patients of different onset ages in various subtypes of lupus erythematosus (LE) and to draw a panorama of the clinical characteristics of patients with different onset ages.Method
Subjects were recruited from the Lupus Erythematosus Multicenter Case–control Study in Chinese populations (LEMCSC), grouped by the age of onset (childhood-onset: onset < 18 years, adult-onset: onset 18–50 years, late-onset: onset > 50 years). The data collected included demographic characteristics, LE-related systemic involvement, LE-related mucocutaneous manifestations, and laboratory results. All included patients were assigned into three groups: systemic LE (SLE) group (with systemic involvement, with or without mucocutaneous lesions), cutaneous LE (CLE) group (patients who were accompanied by any type of LE-specific cutaneous manifestations), and isolated cutaneous LE (iCLE) group (patients who were in CLE group without systemic involvements). Data were analyzed using R version 4.0.3.ResultsA total of 2097 patients were involved, including 1865 with SLE and 232 with iCLE. We also identified 1648 patients with CLE among them, as there was some overlap between the SLE population and CLE population (patients with SLE and LE-specific cutaneous manifestations). Later-onset lupus patients seemed to be less female predominance (p < 0.001) and have less systemic involvement (except arthritis), lower positive rates of autoimmune antibodies, less ACLE, and more DLE. Moreover, childhood-onset SLE patients presented a higher risk of LE family history (p = 0.002, vs adult-onset SLE). In contrast to other LE-nonspecific manifestations, the self-reported photosensitivity history decreased with the age of onset in SLE patients (51.8%, 43.4%, and 39.1%, respectively) but increased in iCLE patients (42.4%, 64.9%, and 89.2%, respectively). There was also a gradual increase in self-reported photosensitivity from SLE, CLE, to iCLE in both adult-onset and late-onset lupus patients.ConclusionsA negative correlation was suggested between the age of onset and the likelihood of systemic involvement, except for arthritis. As the age of onset increases, patients have a greater propensity to exhibit DLE compared to ACLE. Moreover, the presence of rapid response photodermatitis (i.e., self-reported photosensitivity) was associated with a lower rate of systemic involvement.Trial registrationThis study was registered with the Chinese Clinical Trial Registry (registration number: ChiCTR2100048939) on July 19, 2021, retrospectively registered.
Key Points• We confirmed some phenomena that have been found in patients with SLE, such as the highest proportion of females of reproductive age, the higher risk of LE family history in childhood-onset SLE patients, and the less self-reported photosensitivity in the late-onset SLE group. We also compared the similarities and differences of these phenomena in patients with CLE or iCLE for the first time.• In patients with SLE, the proportion of females peaked in adult-onset patients, but this phenomenon disappeared in iCLE patients: the female-male ratio tends to decrease from childhood-onset iCLE, adult-onset iCLE, to late-onset iCLE.• Patients with early-onset lupus are more likely to have acute cutaneous lupus erythematosus (ACLE), and patients with late-onset lupus are more likely to have discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE).
• In contrast to other LE-nonspecific manifestations, the incidence of rapid response photodermatitis (i.e., self-reported photosensitivity) decreased with the age of onset in SLE patients but increased with the age of onset in iCLE patients.