Living with Lupus: Only 10 percent of people with lupus will have a close relative who has lupus or may develop lupus, and only five percent of children born to a mother with lupus will develop the disease.
The Lupus Site, asks and answers:
“Can lupus run in families? Yes. This was first observed in the 1950s. More recent studies show that the brother or sister of a lupus patient is 25 times more likely to develop lupus than someone in the general population.”
“When lupus runs in families, is the reason genes or environment? As in most human disease, the answer appears to be “both.” Lupus has strong genetic components. It has environmental components as well.”
Lupus and genetics
In a past issue of Lupus Now, Jenny Thorn Palter shares an interesting story about sisters with lupus, and reports a prominent researcher’s explanation of twins and the genetics of autoimmunity:
“Christina Gomez, 21, and her younger sister, Adriana, 19, of Ontario, CA, know a little something about genetics. They both have lupus.”
“According to Frederick W. Miller, M.D., Ph.D., chief of the Environmental Autoimmunity Group, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences at the National Institutes of Health, research shows that there is a 10 percent to 25 percent chance that an identical twin will develop lupus if the other one already has it.”
“This drops to a two percent to five percent chance among non-identical twins. Compared with the approximately 0.08 percent frequency of lupus in the general population, this suggests that lupus has an important genetic component. Studies also suggest that the likelihood of developing other autoimmune diseases is higher in families in which a person has lupus.”
“Miller puts it this way: ‘There are multiple shared autoimmune disease genes that can get you into the theater of autoimmunity, and then there are other disease-specific genes, and probably certain environmental exposures, that escort you to your particular seat.’ “
” ‘There are few absolutely ‘good’ or ‘bad’ genes or environmental factors, Miller says. ‘Rather, the environment in which a gene operates defines how useful or harmful that gene will be, just as the genetic background of a person often determines the extent of the effects of environmental exposures.’ “
Singing a lupus solo.
So far as I know, in my whole extended family, I am the only one diagnosed with systemic lupus.
My family has other autoimmune conditions, but no one else has been diagnosed with lupus. My niece is showing signs of possible lupus, including some kidney problems, and is seeing a nephrologist but has not been diagnosed with lupus.
Our children inherited autoimmune psoriasis from their father, and from his father before him.
My husband and me, our children, our nieces and nephews, and some of our grandchildren have allergies with asthma.
My maternal grandmother had rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes.
My mother had asthma and gout.
My sister had autoimmune thyroid disease.
Despite our familial bevy of autoimmune conditions, I am singing the lupus song all by myself.