Lupus is a fairly uncommon disease, but the risk varies across different demographics. For example, women are much more likely to be diagnosed with lupus than men.
Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disorder. It causes the body’s immune system to incorrectly attack its own cells, leading to inflammation and even organ damage.
Keep reading to learn more about who is likely to be diagnosed with lupus, what the common risk factors are, and what you should do if you believe you may have this autoimmune disorder.
Women account for more than 90% of lupus cases. And Women of Color, specifically Black and Hispanic women, are more likely to develop the disorder than any other race, ethnicity, or gender.
In fact, Black women are
This study also found that Native American and Alaskan Native women developed lupus at a rate of 270.6 per 100,000 people, while the men in this category had the highest estimates of lupus, at about 53.8 per 100,000 people.
|Race and gender
|Rate per 100,000
|Native American and Alaskan Native women
|Native American and Alaskan Native men
|Asian/Pacific Islander women
|Asian/Pacific Islander men
It should be noted that most of the studies quoted in this article did not include transgender or intersex individuals within their populations. At the time of publication, gender-inclusive clinical studies on lupus are limited in number and scope.
One 2022 review found that some trans women who exhibit signs of immune-mediated inflammatory rheumatic diseases later developed a comorbidity with lupus after undergoing hormone treatment. However, in one trans man, lupus-related skin lesions improved after testosterone hormone treatment.
The review concluded that more studies on how lupus presents and develops in the trans community are needed. If you’re transgender or intersex and want to help scientists learn more about how lupus is affected by hormone treatments, check out ClincialTrails.gov.
It’s not clear what causes lupus. But certain risk factors do make people more likely to develop it. These risk factors include:
- Gender: Women are
9 timesmore likely to develop lupus than men.
- Age: Most people are diagnosed with lupus in their 20s and 30s; the average diagnosis comes between 15 and 44. However, men are often diagnosed later because lupus is less common in men and often overlooked as a diagnosis. Children can also be diagnosed with lupus.
- Race: Black and Hispanic women are nearly
3 and 1.5 times, respectively, more likely to develop lupus than white women. Some researchalso suggests Native American and Alaskan Native people are also more likely. Those of Asian descentalso have higher rates.
- Family history: If a close family member has lupus or another autoimmune disease, your risk of developing lupus is higher. It’s believed certain genes may play a role, but it’s unclear which ones.
- Environmental factors: Exposure to elements like medications, sunlight, viral infections, and smoking could impact a person’s risk; they may also cause lupus flares, or periods of more intense illness. Stress and trauma have also been show to raise risks.
While men are less likely to develop lupus, research suggests men have more serious cases of lupus when they do have it. In particular, they’re more likely to have organ systems involvement. This can lead to greater complications like organ damage, including damage to the heart and brain.
Did you know?
Lupus is not always a widespread issue. For many people, lupus is localized to a specific part or area of the body.
For example, lupus more commonly affects joints and skin. When lupus occurs in those areas, people experience issues like arthritis and rashes, including a butterfly-shaped rash known as the malar rash that is commonly associated with lupus.
There are several types of lupus. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is the most common form. When lupus is discussed, most people are referring to SLE.
Lupus can be difficult to diagnose. The symptoms are often mistaken for other conditions or diseases, and no single test can make a determination.
For men, this is especially true because lupus is significantly less common in men than in women. In fact, some people mistakenly believe men can’t develop lupus. This can slow down a diagnosis and delay it by months, even years.
If you believe you have lupus, the most important thing you can do is to be an advocate for yourself. Start a diary or symptom tracker. Keep notes on what you’re experiencing and when. It can also be helpful to include details like what you ate, the weather, and any other significant events that occur alongside symptoms.
Symptoms of lupus can come and go, so you may not be having issues when your appointments are. However, a detailed accounting of what you have experienced can help doctors and other healthcare professionals better understand your symptoms.
Alternatively, it may also help you isolate what causes symptoms to flare, or worsen. This can help with treatment down the road so you stay in remission, or periods of wellness and less disease activity.
There’s no official test for lupus, and there is no cure. However, symptoms can be managed to reduce serious impacts on the body.
A diagnosis is important so that treatment can begin early. That’s why it’s important for you to understand your risks and other factors that may impact the chances of you developing lupus. Getting a referral to a specialist, often a rheumatologist, can be important to avoiding long-term complications like organ damage.
Advocate for yourself, especially if you’re in a high risk group. Make notes about your symptoms, flares, and issues you think are related to lupus. Speak up, and work with your doctor to get answers.