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What Increases Your Risk

The chances of developing lupus are higher in people who:

  • Are female.
  • Are black.
  • Are between the ages of 15 and 45.
  • Have a family history of lupus.
  • Take medicines that are associated with drug-induced systemic lupus.

Certain things can trigger lupus attacks. These may include:

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  • Exposure to ultraviolet light, usually from sunlight.
  • Smoking. Smoking also may make getting lupus more likely, and make it more severe.
  • Some medicines.
  • Some infections. Some people who have cytomegalovirus (CMV), parvovirus (such as fifth disease), and hepatitis C infections eventually get lupus. The Epstein-Barr virus has been linked to lupus in children.
  • Chemical exposure. Suspected chemical toxins include trichloroethylene in well water and silica dust. Hair dyes and straighteners, linked to lupus in the past, are no longer thought to trigger lupus.

What about hormones?

Hormones, including those used for hormone replacement therapy or birth control, don't cause lupus. But they may have some effect on it.

  • Most women don't have symptom flares during pregnancy, but a few women do when their estrogen levels are high.
  • Although most women who get lupus are ages 15 to 45, when estrogen levels are higher, a number of women get lupus after menopause, when estrogen levels are low.
  • The hormones in birth control pills have not proved to be harmful in women who have stable, moderate lupus.1 Women with lupus that isn't well controlled may choose to use nonhormonal birth control methods. These include a copper intrauterine device (IUD), a condom, or a diaphragm. To learn more, see the topic Birth Control.

Talk with your doctor about whether you should use hormonal birth control or hormone replacement.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 10, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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