The aim of this study was to characterize the clinical features of familial lupus, and determine its influence on damage accrual and survival using data from LUMINA, a longitudinal multiethnic US cohort. Familial lupus was defined as patients with a first-degree relative with systemic lupus erythematosus. Relative risks were estimated by logistic regression; odds ratios (ORs) and their 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were the measure of association for familial lupus. Hazard ratios were calculated using Cox proportional hazards adjusted for potential confounders for damage and survival. Of 644 patients, 32 had familial and 612 had sporadic lupus; both groups were of comparable age (~36 years). Patients with familial lupus were, in decreasing order of frequency, siblings, parents and children. In multivariable analyses, mucosal ulcers (OR = 1.92, 95% CI 0.65-5.70), mitral valve prolapse (OR = 1.74, 95% CI 0.50-6.10), cerebrovascular disease (OR = 4.18, 95% CI 0.98-17.76) and oral contraceptive use (ever/never; OR = 2.51, 95% CI 0.88-7.19) were more likely in familial lupus, but a history of low platelet count (<150,000/mm(3); OR=0.31, 95% CI 0.08-1.17) and pulmonary disease activity (OR=0.39, 95% CI 0.14-1.20) were less likely. However, none of these associations reached statistical significance. Familial lupus was not significantly associated with a shorter time to either damage accrual or death (HR = 0.77, 95% CI 0.37-1.59, p = 0.4746 and HR = 0.20, 95% CI 0.03-1.47, p = 0.2020, respectively). We conclude that although some clinical differences were observed between patients with familial and sporadic lupus, familial lupus was not associated with a significantly greater disease burden (damage, survival) than sporadic lupus.