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What Causes Lupus?

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  • Most researchers agree that lupus can be triggered by a combination of genetics and lifestyle choices
  • Because most lupus patients are women, researchers are studying the connection between hormone production and lupus

It is generally believed that lupus  can be triggered by a combination of genetics and environment.1 The possibilities can vary due to lupus being random, but there are notable findings that you should be aware of.

Lupus on a Genetics Perspective

Prior evidence shows that certain ethnicities, such as African-Americans, Asians, Hispanics or Latinos and Native Americans are more susceptible to lupus than other groups. Gender may play a role as well, as it is more prevalent in women, especially those who are at child-bearing age.2

You also have a chance of getting lupus if you have a relative who has had lupus or a different autoimmune disease before. Twins also have a greater risk of developing lupus, with a 30% chance for identical twins, and a 5% to 10% chance for fraternal twins.3

Genes have also been identified as a probable trigger for lupus, but their presence does not guarantee you will get the disease. External factors still come into play for lupus to appear.4

One group of genes associated with lupus is the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) Genes. MHC genes are responsible for shaping your immune response by creating proteins that fight previous antigens. Under MHC genes are two classes: class II and class III. Ethnicity in MHC II genes and defects in proteins C4 and C2 in MHC III genes increase your chances in triggering lupus.5

Lupus From an Environmental Perspective

A study published in 2017 lists several environmental factors for lupus. Some of the most prominent include:6

  • Exposure to silica dust in a work environment, as well as residential and agricultural pesticides
  • Taking oral contraceptives

Certain drugs used to treat illnesses such as hydralazine, procainamide, isoniazid, penicillamine and minocycline can trigger lupus as well.7

Lupus Due to Hormones

Because most lupus patients are women, researchers are studying the connection between hormone production and lupus. One angle being studied is the connection between estrogen and lupus.

The Johns Hopkins Lupus Center notes that estrogen is an "immunoenhancing" hormone, making women's immune systems stronger than men. Since women produce more estrogen than men (therefore a higher quantity of immune system cells), they have a higher chance of developing autoimmune diseases. Women also show more lupus symptoms before menstruation8 and during pregnancy,9 when estrogen production is high.10

The research in this field hasn’t been fully investigated, but if the current findings are taken into account, then it's possible that estrogen production can trigger lupus. It’s advisable for women to be more alert during their menstrual periods and during pregnancy for any lupus symptoms. Should any signs or symptoms appear, contact your doctor right away for proper treatment.

MORE ABOUT LUPUS

Lupus: Introduction

What Is Lupus?

Lupus Types

Lupus Symptoms

Lupus Causes

Lupus Treatment

Lupus Remedies

Lupus Prevention

Lupus Diet

Is Lupus Hereditary?

Lupus Diagnosis

Living with Lupus

Lupus FAQ

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