The Grapevine

What Is Lupus? 5 Greatest Risk Factors For Chronic Autoimmune Disease

Lupus is a complex autoimmune disease that affects an estimated 1.5 million Americans and 5 million people worldwide. Because the disease is chronic, it comes and goes throughout a person’s lifetime with flares and remissions, but it doesn’t do so randomly. Lupus targets people with certain risk factors, making them highly susceptible.

According to the Mayo Clinic - a leading health care center that specializes in the treatment of lupus - the disease occurs when the immune system mistakes healthy tissue for foreign invaders in the body and attacks. This leads to inflammation, extreme fatigue, pain, fever, anemia, hair loss, and damage to other areas of the body.

Lupus ebbs and flows, which means there are periodic bouts of symptoms followed by rest periods. The attacks can also be triggered by exposure to ultraviolet light, smoking, exposure to hair dyes, and hormone fluctuations, which can be caused by pregnancy or birth control pills. High doses of medications, such as seizure, blood pressure, and antibiotic prescriptions, have been shown to induce lupus. However, symptoms usually subside once the individual stops taking the medication.

Despite avoiding triggers and common causes of the disease, certain populations are still at risk. While most of the main risk factors for lupus cannot be avoided, early treatment intervention is key to preventing worsening symptoms. Lupus can range from mild to life-threatening and has no cure, which is why medical care is necessary for living a full life. Find out if you are one of the populations at risk and talk to a medical professional if you fall into most or all categories and have related symptoms.

Lupus Risk Factors Women of child-bearing age are at the greatest risk for developing lupus, which is why they need to look out for common triggers and symptoms. Photo courtesy of Pixabay, public domain

5 Risk Factors For Lupus

1. Gender

Nearly all (90 percent) of those diagnosed with lupus are women. While lupus typically manifests in women of childbearing age, men, children, and teenagers aren't necessarily safe.

2. Age

A large majority of those who have presented symptoms will be diagnosed with lupus between the ages of 15 and 44.

3. Race

Lupus is 2 to 3 times more common in African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, than among Caucasians.

4. Family History

According to the Lupus Foundation of America, being related to someone with lupus automatically increases the risk between 5 and 13 percent. For children who are born to a mother with lupus, their risk for developing the disease increases by 5 percent.

5. Infections

Those who have infections, such as cytomegalovirus (CMV), parvovirus, and hepatitis C are at an increased risk for developing lupus. Children with the Epstein-Barr virus are also at a greater risk for lupus. 

To learn more about lupus signs, symptoms, and the stigma surrounding the disease, read here

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