No one can say with certainty what causes the immune system to turn on the body’s organ systems, but there are strong clues that define the direction of research. Researchers currently believe that a number of factors are involved: genetic, hormonal and environmental.
- Genetic: Evidence shows that genetic factors play a major part in the development of lupus, which tends to run in families. People whose parents or siblings have lupus have a higher risk of developing the disease than people in families that do not have lupus. Much research is now directed toward understanding the genes involved in lupus.
- Hormonal: The higher incidence of the disease in women — especially women of childbearing age — suggests that hormones play a role. But research has not uncovered the link yet. The use of hormones to treat lupus is under investigation.
- Environmental factors: Possible triggers in people susceptible to the disease include viruses, stress, diet, environmental toxins and ultraviolet light, but none have been conclusively shown to cause the disease. Anything that stresses the body is suspect.