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.
  • 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