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LUPUS: THE DISEASE

What Causes Lupus?

No one knows what causes lupus. However, scientists believe that hormones, genetics (heredity), and environment are all involved.

Hormones regulate many of the bodyís functions. In particular, the hormone estrogen plays a role in lupus. Men and women both produce estrogen, but estrogen production is much greater in females. However, it does not mean that estrogen, or any other hormone for that matter, causes lupus.

While no gene or group of genes has been proven to cause lupus, the disease does appear in certain families. And, although lupus can develop in people with no lupus in their family history, there are likely to be other autoimmune diseases in some family members. Certain ethnic groups (people of African, Asian, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian, or Pacific Island descent) have a greater risk of developing lupus, which may also be related to genes they have in common.

Your genes may increase the chance that you will develop lupus, but scientists believe it takes some kind of environmental trigger to set off the illness or to bring on a flare, such as:
  • ultraviolet rays from the sun or from fluorescent light bulbs
  • sulfa drugs, which make a person more sensitive to the sun
  • penicillin or certain other antibiotic drugs
  • some tetracycline drugs
  • infection
  • a cold or a viral illness
  • exhaustion
  • injury
  • emotional stress
  • anything that causes stress to the body, like surgery, an accident, or pregnancy

Other seemingly unrelated factors can trigger your onset of lupus. Scientists have noted some common triggers among many people who have lupus, including exposure to the sun, an infection, a medication taken to treat an illness, being pregnant, and giving birth.


Forms of Lupus

There are several forms of lupus.

Systemic lupus erythematosus is the most common form of lupus, and is what most people mean when they refer to 'lupus.' Systemic lupus can affect any part of your body, and can be mild or severe. Some of the more serious complications involving major organ systems are:
  • inflammation of the kidneys (lupus nephritis)
  • an increase in blood pressure in the lungs (pulmonary hypertension)
  • inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis)
  • hardening of the arteries (coronary artery disease)
  • inflammation of the central nervous system (CNS) and brain
  • inflammation of the brainís blood vessels


Cutaneous lupus erythematosus is limited to your skin. Although cutaneous lupus can cause many types of rashes and lesions (sores), the most common kind is raised, scaly and red, but not itchy; it is called a discoid rash because the areas of rash are shaped like disks, or circles. Another common example of cutaneous lupus is the rash on the cheeks and across the bridge of the nose, known as the butterfly rash. Hair loss and changes in the pigment, or color, of the skin are also symptoms of cutaneous lupus.

Certain prescription drugs can create a lupus-like disease, called drug-induced lupus. The drugs most commonly connected with drug-induced lupus are hydralazine (used to treat high blood pressure or hypertension), procainamide (used to treat irregular heart rhythms), and isoniazid (a drug used to treat tuberculosis). The lupus-like symptoms usually disappear within six months after the medications are stopped.

Neonatal lupus is a rare condition that affects babies of women who have lupus. At birth, the baby may have a skin rash, liver problems, or low blood cell counts, but all of these symptoms go away completely after several months with no lasting effects. A very small percentage of babies with neonatal lupus may also have a serious heart defect; however, most babies of mothers with lupus are entirely healthy.


LUPUS FOUNDATION OF AMERICA,
DC / MD / VA CHAPTER


The Lupus Foundation of America, DC / MD / VA chapter was formed in 2010, when the Lupus Foundation of Greater Washington and Lupus Mid Atlantic merged in order to offer more complete services to DC, Maryland and Virginia. The Lupus Foundation of Greater Washington was formed in 1974 and Lupus Mid Atlantic was formed in 1978 to help those affected by lupus. Our goal is to improve the quality of life of lupus patients through education, community outreach services, and hope for better treatment through research. With your donation you become a member of the LFA-DMV, joining the thousands of lupus patients, their families and friends, and the medical community across the country working towards the eradication of lupus. It is through the financial support of our members that we are able to provide these valuable services to the public. The National organization has nearly 300 chapters and support groups in 32 states.

The mission of The Lupus Foundation of America is dedicated to improving the quality of life for all people affected by lupus through programs of research, education, and advocacy.

The Lupus Foundation of America energetically pursues its mission with five program objectives designed to:
  • Heighten public awareness of the causes and consequences of lupus.
  • Support individuals with lupus, their families and caregivers.
  • Provide direct financial support to researchers
  • Advocate increased public and private sector support for biomedical research on lupus.
  • Translate research findings into medically-sound information and programs for physicians and other healthcare professionals.
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