Much about lupus remains unknown, including the cause. Researchers are working to find out what causes lupus and how it can best be treated.

Some of the questions researchers are trying to answer are:

  • Who gets lupus and why?
  • Why are women more likely to get lupus than men?
  • Why are there more cases of lupus among certain racial and ethnic groups?
  • What goes wrong with the immune system and why?
  • How can we fix an immune system that isn't working well?

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 10% of people who have lupus also have a close relative (mother, father, sister or brother) who has lupus or will develop lupus. 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.

In addition, research continues on making treatment more effective and user friendly. For example, researchers are working to develop ways to limit the use of corticosteroids or offset side effects by using corticosteroids in combination with other, less potent drugs.