Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes inflammation throughout your body. An autoimmune disease is a condition in which your body’s own immune system is responsible for the inflammation and breakdown of its own cells.
The inflammation seen in lupus can affect various organs and tissues in your body, including your:
This disease can be severe and potentially life-threatening. It can cause permanent organ damage. However, many people with lupus experience a mild version of it. Currently, there’s no known cure for lupus.
What are the symptoms of lupus?
The symptoms of lupus vary according to the parts of your body affected. Symptoms can disappear suddenly. They can be permanent or flare up occasionally. Although no two cases of lupus are the same, the most common symptoms and signs include:
- a fever
- body aches
- joint pain
- rashes, including a butterfly rash on the face
- skin lesions
- shortness of breath
- chronic dry eyes
- chest pain
- memory loss
What are the possible causes of lupus?
Doctors and researchers aren’t sure what the exact causes of lupus are. However, most believe that lupus may be caused by the following factors:
Although there’s no concrete evidence, most researchers believe heredity plays a role. Having a family history of lupus doesn’t mean you will develop it. However, you may have a slightly higher risk of developing it.
Environmental triggers for the disease may include:
- silica dust
However, more research needs to be done to draw any definite conclusions.
Exposure to sunlight or ultraviolet (UV) light is the only environmental influence that has been associated with skin inflammation and malar butterfly rash in lupus. UV light exposure has also been associated with inflammation in internal organs in people prone to developing lupus.
Some studies suggest that hormones could be responsible. Many doctors and researchers consider abnormal estrogen levels to be a risk factor.
Some people infected with certain viruses, such as cytomegalovirus, may develop lupus. The association between hepatitis C and lupus is still under investigation. Direct causal links between these illnesses and lupus have never been established. The Epstein-Barr virus has been linked to the development of childhood lupus, but studies haven’t been conclusive.
In some rare cases, the long-term use of certain medications can trigger lupus. Drug-induced lupus erythematosus (DILE) is a subset of the disease. Several dozen drugs are linked to DILE.
Some of the more common medications linked to DILE include medications used to treat high blood pressure, such as hydralazine, and drugs used to treat irregular heartbeats, including procainamide and quinidine.
DILE is a rare consequence of taking these medications on a long-term basis.
Many doctors and researchers believe that a combination of factors causes lupus. For example, someone with a family history of the disease who’s exposed to certain environmental factors may develop it.