Lupus is an autoimmune disease in the sense that your immune system attacks different parts of your body instead of attacking antigens like bacteria, virus etc.. Lupus causes in most cases in not known. However it occurs as a result of combination of different factors, both inside and outside the body. The factors which may cause lupus include hormones, environmental and genetic factors.
Hormones are the body’s chemical messengers that regulate many of body’s functions. Since lupus occurrence is more in females than males, scientists have tried to establish a relation between estrogen and lupus. Though both males and females produce estrogen, its production is higher in women. Before menstruation or during pregnancy, the estrogen production is high. Many women are found to have more lupus symptoms during this period. This may give an indication that estrogen plays a role in the regulation of severity of this disease.
But there is no proof showing a casual effect between estrogen or other hormones and lupus. Also studies on women with lupus taking estrogen as birth control pills or for postmenopausal therapy did not show any increase in the disease activity.
So far, not a single gene or a group of genes have been proved to cause lupus. But this condition seems to run in certain families and certain genes seem to be the reason for the development of this condition. However, to cause the disease these associations alone are not enough. Consider the case of twins brought up in the same environment and with the same inherited features. Yet, only one develops this disease out of the two identical twins. In such a scenario, the other twin will have increasing chances of developing the disease. This disease can occur in people with no family history as well. But some family members are likely to have other form of autoimmune diseases.
The risk of developing lupus is greater in certain ethnic groups and this may be due to certain genes which they have in common.
Many researchers today feel that an environmental factor like exposure to a chemical or a virus may trigger this condition in an individual who is genetically susceptible. Though the researchers have no proof on any particular environmental agent but still the hypothesis remains likely. However there is no particular information on the environmental factors that can cause lupus. Some potential factors that can cause lupus include:
- Infections – Certain infections can cause this disease or act as a factor for recurrence in some people.
- Sunlight – In susceptible people, excess exposure to the sun may cause lupus lesions on skin or an internal response.
- Medications – Certain types of anti-seizure medications, antibiotics and blood pressure medications can trigger lupus. The symptoms go away when a person stops taking the medication if the disease was drug induced.