Can You Catch Lupus From Another Person?

Lupus is an autoimmune disease and is not contagious

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Lupus is an autoimmune disease and is not contagious as it can't be passed from one person to another. Autoimmune diseases are characterized by a malfunction of your immune system. Because of this malfunction, your immune system cannot distinguish between your body's cells and tissues and that of foreign matter, like viruses.

Rather than simply producing antibodies to attack antigens (viruses, bacteria, and similar foreign matter), your immune system creates autoantibodies that attack the immune system itself.

Genetic and environmental factors, such as certain drugs and infections, may trigger the disease in those predisposed to lupus. While we know lupus causes the immune system to create antibodies against itself, what causes lupus is still unknown. 

There are three risk main risk factors for lupus: sex, race, and age.  Lupus is most common in women, as well as people of African American, Hispanic and Asian descent. Although lupus affects people of all ages, it mostly affects people between 15 and 40 years old.

Potential Lupus Triggers

Lupus is a disease that presents with a variable clinical course. In other words, lupus waxes and wanes and occurs in bouts. Although the development of lupus is likely rooted in genetics, environmental factors can exacerbate or trigger this illness.

Infections, sunlight, and medications such as anti-seizure or blood pressure medications can all potentially trigger lupus.

If you have a family history of lupus or are at risk of developing the condition, limiting your exposure to the sun and wearing sun block can help you eliminate these triggers. 

Of note, there are 4 types of lupus—systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), drug-induced lupus, cutaneous (discoid lupus) and neonatal lupus—with SLE being the most common.

Typically, if you have drug-induced lupus, your symptoms will resolve once you stop taking the medication that induced your lupus. 

Depending on the type of lupus you have, lupus can affect various organ systems and body parts including your kidneys, blood, skin, joints, brain, heart and lungs. 

How Is Lupus Treated?

Depending on signs, symptoms, and progression of the disease, lupus can be treated in various ways.

Common medications used to control lupus symptoms include:

  • NSAIDs, or pain killers like ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) or naproxen sodium (Aleve)
  • Antimalarial drugs like hydroxychloroquine
  • Corticosteroids like prednisone (Plaquenil)
  • Immunosuppressants like azathioprine (Imuran) or mycophenolate (CellCept)

It should be noted that, as with any medication, some medications used to treat lupus have adverse effects. For example, immunosuppressants inhibit the immune system and can result in infection. 

If you are concerned you may have lupus or have a risk of developing the condition, speak with your doctor. They will likely refer you to a rheumatologist for further testing. In order to diagnose lupus, your doctor will order several different blood tests. However, if you are not currently having a lupus flare, the condition may be harder to diagnose and require repeat blood tests during a more symptomatic period.

 

Sources

  • What is Lupus? Lupus Foundation of America. 2016.
  • Lupus Causes. Lupus Foundation of America. 2016.

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