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Lupus, Causes

What Causes Lupus?

The cause or causes of lupus remain 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 in increasing a person’s risk to develop lupus. 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 gene has been identified.
  2. Hormones may be involved. A link to hormones could explain why lupus occurs much 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.

Facts About Lupus

  • Lupus is not contagious. You cannot "catch" it from another person.
  • Lupus is not a form of AIDS.

Causes of a Flare

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

Signs and Symptoms of a Flare

Common warning signs of a flare are:

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

Prevention of Flares

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

  • Take all medications as prescribed.
  • See a rheumatologist on a regular basis 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 05/2022

Reviewed By Daniel Lovell, MD, MPH
Who treats this.

The Lupus Center at Cincinnati Children’s provides diagnosis, education, treatment and follow-up for children with lupus.

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