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How Does A Person Get Lupus?

Reviewed on 9/24/2020

What Is Lupus?

The cause of lupus is unknown, though it is believed to have genetic, hormonal, immunologic, and/or environmental triggers.
The cause of lupus is unknown, though it is believed to have genetic, hormonal, immunologic, and/or environmental triggers.

Lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, or SLE) is a chronic autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own organs and tissues, causing inflammation and pain, commonly in the skin, joints, and internal organs such as the heart and kidneys, though it can affect any part of the body.

What Are Symptoms of Lupus?

Common symptoms of lupus include:

What Causes Lupus?

The cause of lupus is unknown, though it is believed to have genetic, hormonal, immunologic, and/or environmental triggers. 

  • Genetic
    • There is a high proportion of SLE in identical twins
    • One large study found that first-degree relatives have a 17-fold increased risk of SLE compared with the general population 
    • Siblings have a 29-fold higher risk of developing SLE than the general population 
  • Hormonal
    • The Nurse's Health study showed that women with early onset of menstrual periods, or who were treated with estrogen such as oral contraceptives or postmenopausal hormone replacement therapies, have a significantly increased risk for SLE
    • Progesterone and prolactin also affect immune activity 
    • Thyroid hormone may influence SLE, or vice versa
    • Abnormalities of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis may exist among patients with SLE
  • Immunologic
    • There are numerous immune defects in patients with SLE
  • Environmental exposures 
    • May stimulate the immune response and lead to SLE
  • Viruses
  • Ultraviolet (UV) light 
  • Silica dust, found in cleaning powders, soil, pottery materials, cement, and cigarette smoke, may increase the risk of developing SLE, especially in African American women
  • Allergies to medications, particularly to antibiotics, occur frequently in patients with newly diagnosed SLE 

QUESTION

Lupus is an infection. See Answer

How Is Lupus Diagnosed?

There is no single test to diagnose lupus. Tests that may help diagnose the condition include:

  • Blood tests 
    • Complete blood count (CBC
    • Antibody tests 
    • Blood clotting time tests 
    • Complement tests 
    • Creatinine
    • Protein electrophoresis
    • ANA 
    • Anti-double-stranded DNA (anti-dsDNA)
    • Antiphospholipid antibodies (lupus anticoagulant [LA], immunoglobulin [Ig] G and IgM anticardiolipin [aCL] antibodies, and IgG and IgM anti-beta2-glycoprotein [GP] 1)
    • C3 and C4 or CH50 complement levels
    • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) and/or C-reactive protein (CRP) levels
    • Urine protein-to-creatinine ratio
    • Serologic studies for infection
    • Rheumatoid factor and anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide antibodies
    • Creatine kinase (CK)
  • Urine tests
  • Tissue or organ biopsies
  • Electrocardiography for chest pain
  • Tests to check for pulmonary embolism in patients with chest pain and shortness of breath
  • Diffusing capacity for carbon monoxide if there is suspected lung disease
  • X-rays of swollen joints
  • Chest X-rays
  • Ultrasound of painful joints
  • Ultrasound of kidneys to rule out urinary tract obstruction 
  • Echocardiography 
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan for abdominal pain, suspected pancreatitis, interstitial lung disease
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for neurologic deficits or cognitive dysfunction

What Is the Treatment Lupus?

Lupus is generally treated with medications to help manage symptoms, such as:

Other measures that can help patients manage lupus include:

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Reviewed on 9/24/2020
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