To propose a common nomenclature to refer to individuals who fulfill the American College of Rheumatology classification criteria for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) during childhood or adolescence.


The medical literature was reviewed for studies conducted in the target population between 1960 and December 2011 to obtain information about the terms used to refer to such children and adolescents. We reviewed the threshold ages used and disease features considered to discriminate these individuals from patients with onset of SLE during adulthood. Furthermore, the nomenclature used in other chronic diseases with onset during both childhood and adulthood was assessed.


There was an astonishing variability in the age cutoffs used to define SLE onset prior to adulthood, ranging from 14–21 years, but most studies used age 18 years. The principal synonyms in the medical literature were SLE without reference to the age at onset of disease, childhood-onset SLE, juvenile SLE, and pediatric (or paediatric) SLE.


Based on the definition of childhood, in analogy with other complex chronic diseases commencing prior to adulthood, and given the current absence of definite genetic variations that discriminate adults from children, the term childhood-onset SLE is proposed when referring to individuals with onset of SLE prior to age 18 years.