Lupus is now recognised as a common and important disease worldwide. However, the frequency of the disease, as well as its severity, may well vary from country to country, and indeed from racial group to racial group.

For example, it is particularly prevalent in the Far East, where it is rapidly overtaking rheumatoid arthritis in numbers. In Singapore, there is also an impression that lupus tends to be more severe in the Chinese than in the Malay population.

Lupus has long been recognised as a disease with less favourable outcome amongst non Caucasian populations. It is also a disease significantly more common in Asian, African-American and Afro-Caribbean ethnic groups. Surveys in the UK, for example, suggest that the prevalence of lupus - 1 in 750 Caucasian women - rises to a striking 1 in 250 Asian/Afro-Caribbean women. As many cases remain undiagnosed, lupus must rank as one of the major diseases of the Asian population.

In America, lupus appears to be both more common and more aggressive in the African-American population.  A study carried out at our research unit also showed that the prevalence of SLE in migrants from West Africa to the UK is much greater than in Europeans, but not as high as in people of Afro-Caribbean origin.

Despite this, many people (including some doctors) have only a hazy knowledge of the disease.