Can our environment be creating the cause of diseases that are changing our lives and killing us?
After reading a report by NASA, in an article in the Washington Post, about the soaring temperatures of Earth the last few years, it brought to mind just how our environment impacts our health. Of course, if Earth heats too much, we will have death to Earth eventually, and it really brings to light how the environment can quickly impact our way of life.
How does environment play a role in lupus?
The environment is one of the factors that is thought to be a trigger for lupus. Most research is showing that a viral agent, or a chemical, in a genetically susceptible person can trigger lupus. (Along with hormones and other genetic factors). Some of the same environmental causes can also trigger flares in lupus.
Some of these things include UV rays (from lights or sun), sulfa drugs, penicillin or other types of antibiotics and drugs taken for infection and infections themselves.
Silica and occupational pesticides are also highly linked to triggering lupus. Both chemicals used/exposure in the workplace are the amounts needed for a trigger. Occasionally household exposure doesn’t seem to increase risk.
There is a lot of research on exposure to Epstein-Barr Virus (cause of mono) and lupus trigger. The virus causes an irregular immune response, which in some isn’t really recovered leading to the trigger of lupus.
Not just the outdoors influences lupus… it’s more.
Of course, these solid environmental factors above are easy to comprehend, but we have to remember that our hormones and internal body are influenced by our environment through things like stressors in life. Stress reactions create and change our internal body environment, creating possible flares.
What about vaccines and immune response?
Vaccination is important for people with compromised immune systems. Those who have an autoimmune disorder are compromised from it, as well as many take immunosuppressive drugs to control their disease leaving them susceptible to viral or bacterial infections.
“Live” vaccines are generally discouraged and may cause a flare, but the consensus seems to be that “inactivated” vaccines are safe and effective. Of course, it is possible you could flare from any external environmental trigger, but the benefits of inactivated vaccines in preventing serious infection outweigh the risks for many lupus patients.
The “Other Factors”
The other factors that are believed to be causes of lupus include a family history of autoimmune disorders (lupus or other), and hormones (estrogen). Just because you may have a family history, and you have estrogen, doesn’t mean you will develop lupus. There is a complex set of things that occur before lupus does, and the research isn’t sound as to the exact response. What is known is that many women (but, of course, men as well) experience a set of environmental exposures, combined with a genetic predisposition trigger lupus to begin.
I can speak for myself to this exact scenario. I have been genetically tested for susceptibility for autoimmune/inflammatory genetics and was positive, and I experienced a slew of infections and repeated treatments with antibiotics around age 14, and by age 15 I had lupus symptoms and was diagnosed at age 22.
The factors are real.
What can we do?
Unfortunately, there isn’t much we can do about these particular factors. Trying to find stress relief mechanisms to keep those stressors low is important and one thing that we can try to control.
Choosing when or if to take antibiotics is also important, but cannot always be helped in our conditions either. Using fewer chemicals in all industries will help overall exposures in the workplace, but unlike global warming are hands are far more tied in ways to try to stop our exposure.
Note: Always consult your physician before taking any vaccinations or other medications that you are uncertain about with your condition.