What role do sex and gender play in lupus?
Anyone can develop lupus, but it affects women more often than men. In fact, 9 in 10 people with lupus are women.
Why is lupus more common among women?
Doctors aren’t sure why lupus is more common in women, but they think that differences in our genes and hormones — chemical messengers that deliver messages from the brain to the body — may play a role. Animal studies show that estrogen contributes to the development of lupus and makes it more severe. Researchers are continuing to work hard to learn more about lupus and why it affects women more often than men.
Other factors like race or ethnicity and family history can make people more likely to develop lupus, too. Learn more about what causes lupus.
How does lupus affect men?
While lupus affects everyone who has it differently, men with lupus are more likely than women to have more serious symptoms, including:
- Problems with the kidneys
- Problems with the heart, lungs, and blood
- Antiphospholipid antibody syndrome (which can cause blood clots)
- Chest pain when taking a deep breath (sometimes called serositis)
There isn’t a lot of research about lupus in transgender men, transgender women, and non-binary people. However, exogenous hormone therapy such as estrogen could potentially impact disease. More research is needed to learn about how exogenous hormone therapy could impact disease activity. The good news is that most lupus treatments are the same regardless of sex or gender.
Getting a diagnosis
Diagnosing lupus can be challenging because there’s no single test that can give doctors a “yes” or “no” answer. But it can be especially hard for men to get a lupus diagnosis. That’s because some doctors wrongly assume that lupus only affects women. These assumptions can also make it harder to get a diagnosis for transgender or non-binary people.
If you think you may have lupus, you can advocate for yourself by learning about lupus symptoms, tracking your symptoms, and asking questions during your doctor’s appointments.
Living with lupus can be an isolating experience — but it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Take time to connect with your loved ones and open up about how you’re feeling.
You may also consider joining a support group — it’s a great way to meet other people with lupus and share your experiences, tips, and advice.
- Find a Lupus Foundation of America support group in your community.
- Looking to connect with other men who’ve been there? Check out Brotherhood of the Wolf, a network of support groups for men with lupus.
- Join our online forum, LupusConnect, to meet people with lupus across the country (or around the world).
Our health educators are available to answer your questions and give you the help you need.