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Risk Factors for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition. It is possible to develop systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing SLE.

SLE occurs mainly in women of childbearing age, generally between 15-45 years old.

Other factors that may increase your chance of SLE:

  • Genetics—SLE in close relatives may increase the risk of SLE, although most will have no family history. Some genes are associated with a higher risk of SLE.
  • Ethnicity —People of African American, Native American, Asian, or Hispanic descent have a higher risk of SLE.

Autoimmune disorders like SLE are most likely a combination of genetics and environmental factors. If someone has genetic factors the following environmental factors may trigger an abnormal immune response:

  • Exposure to tobacco smoke, sunlight, or chemicals
  • Bacterial and viral infections—Epstein-Barr virus, in particular, has been linked to SLE


Lupus. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: Updated February 2015. Accessed May 17, 2016.

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated September 15, 2016. Accessed October 6, 2016.

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: Updated June 2013. Accessed May 17, 2016.

What are the risk factors for developing lupus? Lupus Foundation of America website. Available at: Accessed May 17, 2016.