Lupus is a chronic disease that causes the immune system to attack the body’s own tissues and organs, resulting in inflammation of the skin, joints, blood, and kidneys. Common symptoms of lupus include joint and muscle pain, fatigue, low-grade fever, skin rashes, chest pain, unusual hair loss, anemia, and sensitivity to sunlight. While genetic susceptibility plays an important role in the development of lupus, little is known about the contribution of environmental factors to the disease process. Preliminary results from the Carolina Lupus Study, the first population-based study to examine the influence of hormonal and occupational exposures on systemic lupus, show that workers who were exposed to crystalline silica dust, a mineral found in rocks and soil, had a two- to four-fold increased risk for developing the disease.
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