Objectives: The aim of this study was to explore the patient's perception of receiving a diagnosis of systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus) and reports on their experience of the period between onset of symptoms and receiving a definitive diagnosis. Methods: Focus groups were conducted in seven rheumatology centres. Forty-three participants were purposively selected and data were subjected to thematic deductive analysis. Results: Focus group data generated three major themes. 'Diagnostic uncertainty and misdiagnosis' describes the frustration for many of experiencing years of often debilitating symptoms that have gone unacknowledged by health professionals and misunderstood by themselves. Some experienced the trauma of being misdiagnosed, which impacted on how they adjusted to their final diagnosis of lupus. 'Consequences of receiving a diagnosis' highlights the feelings of relief for participants at finally having a diagnosis, despite its implications. However, the manner in which this knowledge was delivered was often inappropriate and unsupported, affecting how they adjusted to future management of their condition. 'Impact on individuals' lives' explores how many felt empowered by finally receiving recognition for their symptoms, but the diagnosis of a relatively unknown condition with often invisible symptoms impacted on the response and support they received from those around them. Conclusion: It is essential health professionals have a greater understanding of the patient experience prior to receiving a diagnosis of lupus. The individual experience from symptom onset to diagnosis has a direct impact on the patient's subsequent acceptance of their diagnosis and response to management and therefore justifies the need for further research in this field.