Despite the current diagnostic and serologic testing for SLE, the interval between the onset of symptoms and the diagnosis is still long. In this study, we aimed to show the interval between the initial symptoms and the diagnosis of SLE and to investigate the presence of any relationship between the interval and the initial symptoms. One hundred and thirty-six patients were diagnosed with SLE using the 1982 ARA criteria. The mean age of the patients at diagnosis was 29.9 +/- 10.5 years. The mean interval between the onset of symptoms and the diagnosis of SLE was 21.82 +/- 30.32 months. The subjects were evaluated twice, at intervals of less than or equal to3 and less than or equal to12 months after the onset of symptoms. Although arthritis and/or arthralgia were the most common initial symptoms (60.3%), only 26.8%. of the patients with these symptoms were diagnosed earlier than 3 months after the onset. If the first initial symptoms were butterfly rash or pericarditis, pleuritis, spontaneous abortion or cognitive dysfunction, they led to early diagnosis. In conclusion, since arthritis and/or arthralgia, are the most common initial symptoms of the disease, every young woman with these symptoms should be carefully evaluated for SLE.