May 13, 2020
Lupus is a chronic autoimmune condition that can cause inflammation throughout your body. However, it tends to primarily be a localized condition, so it’s not always systemic.
An autoimmune disease is a condition in which your body’s own immune system is responsible for the inflammation and breakdown of its own cells.
Many people with lupus experience a mild version of it, but it can become severe without proper treatment. Currently, there’s no known cure for lupus, so treatment focuses on easing symptoms and reducing inflammation.
The symptoms of lupus can depend on the parts of your body affected. The inflammation seen in lupus can affect various organs and tissues in your body, including your:
Symptoms can vary, depending on the individual. They may be:
- disappear suddenly
- flare up occasionally
Although no two cases of lupus are the same, the most common symptoms and signs include:
- high fever
- body aches
- joint pain
- rashes, including a butterfly rash on the face
- skin lesions
- shortness of breath
- Sjogren’s syndrome, which includes chronic dry eyes and dry mouth
- pericarditis and pleuritis (pleuritis), which both can cause chest pain
- memory loss
The inflammation from lupus can also cause complications involving various organs, such as the:
The symptoms of lupus typically start as you’re entering adulthood. This can be anywhere between your teens and into your 30s.
Some early signs include:
- swollen joints
- dry mouth or dry eyes
- hair loss, especially in patches, which is referred to as alopecia areata
- problems with your lungs, kidneys, thyroid, or GI tract
These are similar to symptoms of other conditions, so experiencing them doesn’t necessarily mean that you have lupus. However, it’s important to make an appointment with your healthcare provider to discuss them.
While healthcare providers don’t know exactly what causes lupus, they think it may be a combination of many underlying factors. These include:
- Environment: Healthcare providers have identified potential triggers like smoking, stress, and exposure to toxins like silica dust as potential lupus causes.
- Genetics: More than 50 genes associated with lupus have been identified. Additionally, having a family history of lupus may put a person at slightly higher risk for experiencing the condition.
- Hormones: Some studies suggest that abnormal hormone levels, such as increased estrogen levels, could contribute to lupus.
- Infections: Healthcare providers are still studying the linkTrusted Source between infections like cytomegalovirus and Epstein-Barr, and causes of lupus.
- Medications: Long-term use of certain medications, such as hydralazine (Apresoline), procainamide (Procanbid), and quinidine, have been linked with causing a form of lupus known as drug-induced lupus erythematosus (DIL). Also, patients taking TNF blocker medications for conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and ankylosing spondylitis can develop DIL. Though rare, tetracyclines, like minocycline, which can be used to treat acne and rosacea, can cause DIL as well.
It’s also possible to have experienced none of the known potential causes of lupus listed here and yet still have the autoimmune disease.
Lupus risk factors
Certain groups may be at a higher risk of developing lupus. Examples of risk factors for lupus include:
- Sex: Women are more likely to develop lupus than men, but the disease can present as more severe in men.
- Age: While lupus can occur at any age, it’s most often diagnosed in people between the ages of 15 and 44.
- Race or ethnicity: Lupus is more common in certain ethnic groups, such as African American, Hispanic, Asian American, Native American, or Pacific Islander
- Family history: Having a family history of lupus means that you’re at a greater risk of developing the condition.
Remember that having risk factors for lupus doesn’t mean you’ll get lupus. It just means that you’re at increased risk compared to those who don’t have risk factors.
Is lupus curable?
Currently, there’s no cure for lupus. However, there are many different types of treatments that can help you to manage your symptoms.
Treatment for lupus focuses on several factors:
- treating lupus symptoms when you have them
- preventing lupus flares from occurring
- reducing the amount of damage that occurs to your joints and organs
Following your healthcare provider’s recommended treatment regimen is important in helping you to manage your symptoms and to live a normal, fulfilling life.
Healthcare providers and scientists continue their research to better understand lupus and develop new treatments for the condition.