Lupus is a debilitating autoimmune condition. Unfortunately, while there are some agreed upon lupus risk factors, there is not one single determinable cause. Because the condition seems to be becoming more common, it is receiving a lot of scientific attention, and this has resulted in a slightly increased understanding of the condition in general and what causes it, but much more work is still required.
Understanding the Lupus Risk Factors:
So far, it is understood that genetics has an important role to play in the development of lupus. There has been one significant study, for instance, that showed twins with an exact copy of genes and one had lupus, the other had a 24% chance of also having the condition. While this one on the one hand shows that genes have a role to play, it also shows that it is not the sole determining factor, as this would mean that there would be a 100% chance of the other one developing it as well. Currently, scientists are looking at a possible link to environmental factors.
Some of the environmental factors that may be classed as lupus risk factors include stress, cigarette smoke, and sunlight. Furthermore, there is a possibility that certain viruses, particularly the Epstein-Barr virus, can cause lupus in those who already have a genetic predisposition towards the condition. Some scientific research has shown that there is indeed a link, although this must still be peer reviewed. Epstein-Barr virus also causes mononucleosis.
Medical experts also believe that there are some specific genes that could increase the probability of someone developing the condition. If confirmed, these genes would also be responsible for the presentation of the condition itself, as different people experience different symptoms. Some of these genes have now been recognized, and it is hoped that this will soon also help in developing a suitable treatment for lupus. In fact, it is feasible that it will some day help to develop a preventative cure for the condition altogether.
Improvements in Diagnosis:
With new lupus causes and risk factors being discovered regularly, there has also been a significant improvement in how the condition is diagnosed. Currently, few tests exist and those that do specifically look for antinuclear antibodies, or ANA, in the blood. ANA attacks healthy cells in the body. For those who have lupus, their immune system starts to create ANA, which means that a presence of these antibodies may also indicate a presence of the condition. However, there are reasons other than lupus for someone to have ANA present as well. As a result, there is a chance that someone could be misdiagnosed. Furthermore, not every lupus patient has ANA in the blood either. Hence, further tests have to be done in either case, which currently includes a review of physical symptoms and medical history, as well as comprehensive physical examination.
It is hoped that advances in medical science will soon be able to improve the diagnosis and treatment of people with lupus. Unfortunately, at present, it often takes a long time just for someone to become diagnosed. Treatment, meanwhile, is not always successful either.