lupus erythematosus, or SLE) is an
autoimmune disease, in which the immune system attacks
the body's own tissues as though they were foreign substances. Lupus is not
No one knows exactly what causes the body to attack
its own tissues. A person may be born with a certain
genetic makeup that affects how the
immune system functions or makes him or her at risk
for lupus. A combination of factors can trigger the autoimmune process, some of
which may affect one person but not another.1
- Exposure to ultraviolet light, usually from
sunlight, is known to trigger the disease process and symptom
- Hormonal factors are linked to autoimmune disease, though
the link is poorly understood. Some research shows an increased risk of lupus
with higher levels of estrogen. But a separate study did not find evidence that
prolactin taken for hormone replacement therapy or
birth control, or taken previously for fertility treatments, increased the risk
of lupus.2 Another study showed that women with stable
lupus had no increased risk of symptom flares from taking birth control
- Smoking may increase the risk of
getting lupus and may make the disease more severe.
medications are suspected triggers of lupus and
- Some infections are suspected triggers. Some people
cytomegalovirus (CMV), parvovirus (such as
fifth disease), and
hepatitis C infections eventually develop lupus. The
Epstein-Barr virus has been linked to lupus in
- Chemical exposure has been known to trigger lupus.
Suspected chemical toxins include trichloroethylene in well water and silica
dust. Hair dyes and straighteners, linked to lupus in the past, are no longer
considered to be lupus triggers.
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