Causes Of Lupus
Cause Of Lupus And Lupus Flares

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Causes Of Lupus


What Causes Lupus?
Lupus Flare Triggers
Can Artificial Sweeteners Cause Lupus Flares?
Can Something You Eat Cause Lupus?
Can Silicone Breast Implants Cause Lupus?

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Lupus Guide
Drug Induced Lupus
What Causes Lupus?

No one single thing causes lupus. Lupus is an autoimmune disease which means the person's immune system is faulty and causes the body to attack its own tissue. What causes the immune system to become faulty in the first place is unclear. Scientists are fairly sure it is something to do with 'bad' genes combined with environmental toxins. What they are not sure is how these elements interact to trigger the disease.


When you first go to your doctor with symptoms of lupus, he will want to know if you have a family member - parent, brother, sister, aunt or uncle with lupus or any other autoimmune condition (such as rheumatoid arthritis, Reynaud’s phenomenon, vitiligo and type 1 diabetes). This is because autoimmune diseases tend to run in families. Researchers were first drawn to the link between genes and lupus after noticing that the incident rate is higher in some families and among certain ethnic groups. For example, if your brother or sister has lupus, your risk is 20 times higher. It still doesn't necessarily mean you will get lupus, it just means you are more susceptible.


Women are 9 times more likely than men to develop lupus. Estrogen, one of the female sex hormones, is associated with an increased risk of lupus. It is no coincidence that lupus is a disease of women in their childbearing years when estrogen levels are at their highest. Flares are also common during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Because of this connection women with lupus need to be careful about using hormone contraceptives. Historically doctors have been reluctant to prescribe oral contraceptive pills to women with lupus, but recent studies show they don't actually increase the risk of lupus flares. Birth control pills with lower doses of estrogen are considered safe for those with mild lupus. They should still however be avoided by those with moderate to severe lupus. This includes those with renal lupus, and women with antiphospholipid antibodies which increases their risk of blood clots. See also, effects of estrogen.

Environmental Triggers

Certain environmental toxins triggers have been linked to lupus. It may be that a person who is genetically predisposed to lupus develops the disease when exposed to one or more of these triggers:

• Smoking, may act as a trigger and make the disease more severe.
• Breathing in silica dust (for those working in certain industries or mining).
• Epstein-Barr Virus (which causes mononucleosis) is linked to lupus in children.
• Herpes zoster virus (which causes shingles)
• Hepatitis C
• Cytomegalovirus, common herpes-type virus that produces symptoms similar to Epstein-Barr virus.

The following are known to aggravate lupus symptoms. It is not clear if they trigger the disease:

• Stress, read about dangers of stress.
• Exposure to ultraviolet light (sun).

Lupus Flare Triggers

It is not always possible to know what triggers a lupus flare. Doctors have identified the following healthy habits which may help you avoid them:

• Always take medications you are prescribed.
• Get plenty of rest and avoid too much stress.
• Keep your doctor appointments, even if you are feeling good.
• Avoid sulfa drugs (sulfonamides) which are used to treat bronchitis and urinary tract infections.
• Limit your exposure to sun. Apply sunscreen before going out during the day.
• Do not smoke.

Can Artificial Sweeteners Cause Lupus Flares?

For a while there was some concern that the artificial sweetener aspartame could trigger a lupus flare. According to the Lupus Foundation of America, there is no evidence that this is the case. Nevertheless, artificial sweeteners are probably best avoided.

Can Something You Eat Cause Lupus?

Currently there is no evidence to suggest that something you eat can cause lupus.

Can Silicone Breast Implants Cause Lupus?

There has been a great deal of interest in a possible link between silicone breast implants and lupus. At present there is no evidence to suggest a link. Anecdotally, some women with implants have reported an improvement in their condition after having their implants removed. Others report no improvement.

  Related Articles on LUPUS

For more information, see the following:

Lupus: How to prepare for a doctor's appointment
Lupus diagnosis: How the condition is evaluated.
Lupus treatments: Medications to manage the disease.

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