Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disorder that can affect multiple parts of the body. While it can cause noticeable symptoms, it is not contagious and does not transmit from person to person.

Lupus describes a chronic autoimmune condition where a person’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. This results in inflammation that can affect various parts of the body and cause a number of different symptoms. There are also various types of lupus that may present differently.

While the exact cause is still unclear, experts do know that lupus is not a contagious condition and cannot transmit between people.

This article discusses how lupus is not contagious, its possible causes and risk factors, symptoms, and more.

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Lupus is not contagious. A person cannot catch the condition or pass it on to another person through contact with skin, blood, sweat, saliva, or any other form.

While not contagious, if a birth giver has certain autoantibodies, which may be present in an individual with lupus, the baby might experience neonatal lupus. This can cause skin rashes, liver problems, low blood cell counts, or heart problems. However, most symptoms typically resolve after a few months with no lasting effects.

Lupus is an autoimmune condition. Symptoms occur due to systemic inflammation that targets certain parts of the body. Evidence suggests that it likely occurs due to a combination of genetic, hormonal, and environmental factors. This means it is not a communicable disease, such as a cold, flu, or COVID-19.

The exact cause of lupus is unknown. However, experts believe that contributing factors may include:

  • Genetic alterations: Experts have identified over 50 genes associated with lupus.
  • Sex: Research suggests roughly 9 out of 10 cases occur in females, suggesting that hormones such as estrogen may play a role in its development.
  • Environmental factors: For example, exposure to chemicals, stress, or other outside factors may trigger its development.

Lupus can run in families, as people with a close genetic relative with lupus are at a higher risk of developing the condition. However, in most cases, a person with lupus does not have a relative with lupus, but instead another autoimmune condition.

Risk factors for lupus may include being a female between the ages of 15–44 and being of Asian American, African American, Hispanic, or Native American descent.

Lupus can cause a variety of nonspecific symptoms. They can appear in one or several areas, depending on the organs involved.

Some common symptoms of lupus can include:

Inflammation can affect several areas of the body. It can affect a person’s:

  • brain and central nervous system, causing issues with memory, stroke, headaches, and confusion
  • kidneys, causing kidney issues
  • arteries, causing them to harden
  • lungs — inflammation can occur in the lining of the lungs, which can cause breathing difficulties

An individual may not experience every possible symptom of lupus. They may also notice their symptoms come and go, known as periods of remission and flares. Treatment can help reduce the severity of flares and prolong the time between them.

Symptoms are often nonspecific to lupus. This can make lupus difficult to diagnose and means a doctor will likely need to run several tests to determine the exact cause of these symptoms.

Currently, there is no known way to prevent lupus from developing. Experts do know that certain factors may contribute to its development, including genes, hormones, and environmental factors. However, researchers do not fully understand how these factors interact.

A person may help prevent flares by:

An individual may consider contacting a healthcare professional if they experience symptoms associated with lupus, such as extreme fatigue, joint pain, and skin rashes.

A person with lupus should consider contacting a doctor if they experience worsening symptoms or no symptom improvement once treatment starts. They may recommend changes to the person’s treatment or additional therapies.

Lupus is not contagious, and individuals cannot pass it on as with a cold, flu, or COVID-19. However, the condition does have a genetic element. Although certain genes may increase a person’s risk of lupus, possessing these genes does not necessarily mean a person will develop lupus.

In addition to genes, experts believe that other factors — including hormones and the environment — contribute to its development.

A person who develops symptoms, such as fatigue, joint pain, or skin rashes, should consider consulting a doctor to determine the underlying cause of their symptoms. After receiving a diagnosis, a doctor can recommend treatments that may help prevent flares, reduce their severity, and prevent organ damage.