Causes of Lupus

The cause of lupus is unknown, but there are environmental and genetic factors involved. While scientists believe there is a genetic predisposition to the disease, it is known that environmental factors also play a critical role in triggering lupus. Some of the environmental factors that may trigger the disease are: infections, antibiotics (especially those in the sulfa and penicillin groups), ultraviolet light, extreme stress, certain drugs, and hormones.

Although lupus is known to occur within families, there is no known gene which are thought to cause the illness. There are recent discoveries of a gene on chromosome 1 which is associated with lupus in certain families. Previously, genes on chromosome 6 called “immune response genes” were also associated with the disease.Only 10 percent of lupus patients will have a close relative (parent or sibling) who already has or may develop lupus. Statistics show that only about 5% of the children born to individuals with lupus will develop the illness.

Lupus is often called a “woman’s disease” despite the fact that many men are affected. Lupus can occur at any age, and in either sex, although it occurs 10-15 times more frequently among adult females than among adult males after puberty or after the emergence into sexual maturity. The symptoms of the disease are the same in men and women. People of African, American Indian, and Asian origin are thought to develop the disease more frequently than Caucasian women. The reasons for this ethnic selection are not clear.

Hormonal factors may explain why lupus occurs more frequently in females than in males. The increase of disease symptoms before menstrual periods and/or during pregnancy support the belief that hormones, particularly estrogen, may somewhat regulate the way the disease progresses. However, the exact reason for the greater prevalence of lupus in women, and the cyclic increase in symptoms, is unknown.