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Lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus or SLE) is a condition of chronic inflammation caused by an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases are illnesses that occur when the body's tissues are attacked by its own immune system. The precise reason for the abnormal autoimmunity that causes lupus is not known. Inherited genes, viruses, ultraviolet light, and drugs may all play some role. The genes some people inherit seem to increase the tendency of developing autoimmune diseases, and autoimmune diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and immune thyroid disorders are more common among relatives of patients with lupus than the general population. Some scientists believe that the immune system in lupus patients is more easily stimulated by external factors like viruses or ultraviolet light. Sometimes, symptoms of lupus can be precipitated or aggravated by only a brief period of sun exposure.
Recent research provides direct evidence that a key enzyme's failure to dispose of dying cells contributes to SLE. Accordingly, a genetic mutation that disrupts the body's cellular waste disposal may be involved in the beginning of SLE.
Medically reviewed by John A. Daller, MD; American Board of Surgery with subspecialty certification in surgical critical care
"Overview of the clinical manifestations of systemic lupus erythematosus in adults"