A high number of scientists are of the opinion that lupus, an organ and joint damaging autoimmune disease, develops as a reaction to a broad combination of both internal and external factors. These include genetics, hormones, and the environment.
Hormones are responsible for regulating many of the functions of the human body. Because 90 percent of all lupus cases occur in women, medical researchers have focused extensively on the relationship between the disease and hormones such as estrogen. Although men and women both produce estrogen, females produce a much higher amount. Scientists have discovered that many women experience an increase in symptoms during pregnancy and just before their menstrual periods, both of which are times when the production of estrogen is high. Nevertheless, there is not yet any definitive link to connect lupus and estrogen.
Although there is not a specific group of genes or single gene proven to cause lupus, it does appear to run in families. Additionally, specific genes have been isolated as contributing factors to the development of the disorder. Interestingly, those with an identical twin who has the disease have a 25 percent chance of developing it themselves. However, studies completed on fraternal, or non-identical twins, indicated that the healthy twin has only a two to three percent chance of developing the disorder. In other cases, there may be no family history of lupus, but the patient’s family may have a history of other autoimmune diseases. Scientists are attempting to discover if one particular group of genes may be responsible for the development of many different autoimmune disorders.
Many researchers believe that chemicals or viruses randomly encountered in one’s environment may make a person genetically susceptible to lupus. Although no specific agent has been discovered, there seems to be a link between silica dust in industrial or agricultural settings and long-term, sun exposure that is excessive in nature.
Additional examples of established environmental triggers include:
• Sulfa drugs, such a certain antibiotics used to treat infection
• Artificial or natural ultraviolet rays
• Bacterial infections
• Traumatic injury
• Long-term insomnia or physical exhaustion from overexertion
• Emotional stress from a death in the family, long-term illness, divorce or other complicated problems
In numerous instances, factors that seem entirely unrelated, whether environmental in nature or from another source, can trigger the onset of lupus in a susceptible individual. Scientists have noted a few common triggers that have had this effect. These include certain cancer drugs, childbirth, pregnancy, miscarriage, a hectic and continuous traveling schedule and dietary imbalances, such as iron deficiency.
Finally, certain ethnic groups appear to have a higher risk of developing lupus, which may be linked back to the gene factor. Among these groups are Pacific Islanders, Native Hawaiians, Native Americans, Hispanics and those of African descent.
Whether a person is newly diagnosed, experiencing symptoms without a diagnosis or simply curious about his or her risk for developing lupus, it is essential to recognize the symptoms and pursue medical help if needed.Advertisement