Research is Growing Closer to Identifying Lupus Risk and Preventing the Disease
A recent article reviews numerous research underway (and completed) to prevent lupus. Studies on various patient groups are shedding light on initial events or manifestations that suggest who is at risk for lupus and potential ways to prevent the disease in the future.
Identifying People at Risk
Arthritis, skin lesions and low white blood cell count may be early clinical features of lupus, and autoantibodies are present in approximately 88% of lupus patients’ blood years before diagnosis. The antibodies Anti-Ro, anti-La and anti-cardiolipin tend to be present for 3.4 years or more before patients meet lupus classification criteria.
Immune system cells (cytokines and chemokines) elevate within the final year before lupus is diagnosed. Once the disease has developed, the presence of anti-cardiolipin antibodies early in the disease course may signal more severe, varied outcomes. Meanwhile environmental factors, such as vitamin D deficiency and sleeping less than seven hours per night may also increase risk for disease activity.
Additionally, different ethnic groups and genders progress to lupus differently. African American men tend to develop lupus rapidly with many showing no prior symptoms at all, whereas Caucasian women tend to slowly develop symptoms over time. And while genetics appears to play a role in risk of developing the disease, women who are related to someone with lupus are more likely to develop the disease than their male family members. Depression is also associated with elevated lupus risk in women.
Shedding Light on Disease Prevention
People who are autoantibody (ANA)-positive seem to suppress lupus disease activity. In fact, up to 30% of women in the U.S. will have a positive ANA test at some point, but few develop lupus. Early treatment with hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) also seems to have a protective effect and prolongs low disease activity.
Work to understand lupus risk factors and disease development continues across the research community. While this research is underway, practicing good lifestyle choices, such as not smoking, sleeping well, and watching weight, can contribute to better quality living for people with lupus. Learn more about living with lupus.