What Causes Lupus Disease?


Lupus, a disease that inflames the joints, kidneys, skin, blood and other body organs has baffled scientists and defied proper diagnosis for centuries. Some factors connected to lupus have been identified but no one cause.

Genetic Factors

While no one is certain of the exact cause of lupus, the Lupus Foundation of America indicates that genetics play a major role. African, Asian, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders have been struck disproportionately by the disease. A study published in the journal Ethnicity & Disease revealed this ethnic bias of the disease among lupus patients in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.However, many cases of lupus come without previous family history of the disease.


Women with lupus show an increase in lupus symptoms during their menstrual cycle, which is likely due to the increase in estrogen. The hormone estrogen exacerbates the disease but does not cause the disease. While both men and women produce estrogen, the hormone is in greater concentration in females.

The most common symptom of lupus is facial redness or rash. This can be either an indication of a genetic origin or an environmental exposure to the ultravioltet rays of the sun.

Arthritic swelling around the joints is another symptom associated with lupus. The difference between lupus and arthritis is that the joints are weakened but not destroyed.


Environmental causes may lead to lupus and activate outward visible symptoms. Stressful circumstances can increase symptoms as well. Traumatic events such as a divorce, death in the family, loss of a job or physical injury can trigger lupus symptoms. A prolonged illness, cold or viral infection has also been connected to the onset of the disease. Mothers after the birth of a child are at higher risk as well.

The Lupus Foundation also suspects a variety of chemical causes, such as sulfa drugs, penicllin and amoxicillin.


An enzyme identified as DNase1, which gets rid of dying cells and other waste may be a link to lupus. When the DNase1 gene is shut off in mice, the majority began to show symptoms of lupus. This has led to the theorythat a mutation in this gene could cause the disease.

Expert Insight

Katie Crosslin, a Children's Medical Center research scientist from Dallas concluded in a September 2009 study, "Ethnic minority populations have a higher incidence of severe SLE (systemic lupus erythematosus) for several reasons, such as a lower socioeconomic status, barriers to adequate health care and genetic predisposition."

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