What Causes Lupus?

What Causes Lupus?

Lupus is a chronic disease that affects an estimated 1.5 million Americans, most of whom are women. Individuals with lupus can experience a wide range of symptoms, such as pain, fatigue, and cognitive issues. No two cases are exactly alike, and symptoms can vary significantly from person to person. 

The exact cause of lupus is unknown. However, most scientists believe that a complex combination of genetic, hormonal, and environmental factors contribute to its development. 

Everyone with lupus should see a rheumatologist as part of their care team. Rheumatologists specialize in caring for patients with inflammatory and autoimmune disorders, such as lupus. 

Here at Valerius Medical Group & Research Center in Los Alamitos, California, rheumatology specialists Nathaniel Neal, MD, and Rebekah Neal-Kraal, MD, have extensive experience helping patients effectively manage lupus. Learning as much as you can about lupus is a good first step on the path to living well with this chronic illness.

What is lupus?

Lupus is a condition in which the immune system — which is designed to fight foreign invaders — mistakenly attacks healthy tissue and organs. This condition causes inflammation, and it can affect many parts of the body, including your joints, lungs, kidneys, skin, and brain.

Because lupus mimics a number of other diseases, it can be challenging to diagnose. While there’s no cure for lupus, treatment can help control symptoms and reduce the frequency and severity of flares-ups.

The number of symptoms and their intensity can vary greatly among individuals, depending on how much the disease affects the person. Some of the most common symptoms include:

You may experience symptoms that are not listed here. Furthermore, the symptoms you experience will depend on the part of the body affected during the flare-up. 

For most people with lupus, symptoms come and go and may even subside completely for a period of time.

Factors thought to contribute to lupus

A single cause for lupus has not been found. Instead, lupus appears to arise from a complex interplay of a combination of factors, such as the following:

Genetic factors

There are more than 50 genes linked to lupus. However, genes alone aren't enough to directly cause lupus. Experts believe the interaction between your genetic makeup and other factors, such as environmental agents, may lead to the disease. They believe your genes may make you more susceptible to developing lupus if other contributing factors are present. 

Environmental factors

Environmental triggers may contribute to the development of lupus. Some individuals report that their symptoms began after a specific triggering event, such as a virus or major emotional stressor. Other potential environmental triggers may include physical trauma and taking certain medications.

Hormonal factors

About 90% of those affected by lupus are women. This caused researchers to look into the link between hormones and lupus. Women have higher levels of estrogen than men, and estrogen levels fluctuate throughout the month. 

Many women report symptoms during times when estrogen peaks, such as before menstrual periods. This suggests that estrogen may play a role in lupus symptoms.

Treating lupus

Managing lupus requires help from expert medical professionals who specialize in its treatment. Your treatment will depend on your case, but your provider may recommend a combination of lifestyle changes and medication as part of your treatment plan, such as the following:

Lifestyle changes


Your provider will give you a thorough examination, discuss your symptoms, perform any necessary testing, and design a treatment plan to help you prevent and control your symptoms.

If you have lupus, we can help you live well again. To learn more, book an appointment over the phone with Valerius Medical Group & Research Center today.

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