Causes of Lupus

The cause of lupus remains unknown. Two of the major questions researchers are trying to answer is who gets lupus and why. Understanding what causes lupus could lead to better treatments, cure, or prevention.

A combination of factors may act together to cause lupus. Current scientific thinking focuses on three areas.

  1. Because lupus can run in families, researchers believe that genes play a role. About 50 percent of people who have lupus also have a close relative who has lupus or will develop lupus. Close relative means mother, father, sister, or brother. No single specific lupus gene has been identified.
  2. Hormones may be involved. A link to hormones could explain why lupus occurs more often in females, particularly during their childbearing years.
  3. Something in the environment may cause lupus. Some environmental factors are already known to make lupus symptoms worse. These factors include some prescription drugs and exposure to sunlight.
  • Lupus is not contagious. You cannot "catch" it from another person.
  • Lupus is not a form of AIDS.

It is not always possible to know precisely what triggers a flare. Some common precipitating events include:

  • Exposure to sunlight
  • Infections
  • Emotional stress
  • Not taking medications as prescribed

Common warning signs of a flare are:

  • Feeling more tired
  • Pain in the chest or joints
  • Rash
  • Fever
  • Stomach upset
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness

Not all flares can be prevented, but positive steps can help avoid flares.

  • Take all medications as prescribed.
  • See a rheumatologist to adjust medications for lupus.
  • Limit exposure to sunlight.
  • Reduce the risk of infections.
  • Get the influenza vaccine.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Maintain a healthy diet.
  • When possible, exercise moderately.
  • Don't smoke.
  • Develop healthy coping skills and a good support system.

Last Updated 07/2013