Is Lupus Hereditary?

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Ask the experts

I just found out that my mom has lupus. Is lupus hereditary? I would like to know what to expect and learn more about what is happening to her.

Doctor's response

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

REFERENCE:

"Overview of the clinical manifestations of systemic lupus erythematosus in adults"
UpToDate.com

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Reviewed on 6/30/2017
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