A man looks at butterflies resting on his shoulders as women surround him in the background, feeling outnumbered.

The Hormone Connection to Lupus

Last updated: March 2022

I’ve always been interested as to why there is such a higher ratio of women who get diagnosed with lupus than men. Research suggests that 1 in 10 people living with lupus are male.

When I set out to do some research on the subject, it seems that experts are not exactly sure of the reason for this. Although, it looks as though hormones may play a major role in the connection. Estrogen appears to be one of the main hormones involved.

Estrogen hormones

As we all know, women produce higher levels of estrogen than men and it would appear that women often develop lupus in their childbearing years when estrogen levels are at their highest. So, this makes sense. I can certainly relate to my lupus becoming more active leading up to my period.

When I began having fertility treatment 5 years ago, I was very concerned about the use of hormones involved. I was aware that there was some connection between lupus and hormones causing flares which worried me. I had to take a drug that tricks the body into believing that your estrogen levels are lower than they really are.

I was surprised that I felt well while taking it and I now realize that perhaps if estrogen does play a major role in the disease then that could be the reason why.

Another risk factor is taking the oral contraceptive pill. I used to take this in my pre-lupus days without any problem and then I stopped taking it for a few years. At that time, my lupus symptoms began to appear. When I decided to start taking it again, it made me feel really unwell. I had major fatigue and intense migraines. It took me a while to realize that there was some connection so I decided to stop.

Men vs. women with lupus

With this in mind, there is still a lot of misinformation out there about men and lupus. I was surprised when having a conversation with someone that they did not think men could get it, which of course is not true.

When I ran my support group for lupus warriors, the majority of people that walked through the door were women but there were a few men that came along and my heart went out to them because they found it very hard to deal with having a disease that was mostly associated to females. They found that there did not seem to be much support out there for them which was incredibly sad. This can cause issues such as depression.

Lupus severity among men

There are studies that show when men are diagnosed, the severity of their symptoms can be much worse than women. Some of them include:

Whatever the reason, it is so important that men get the support they need by talking to other men that have lupus as it can be incredibly challenging dealing with the emotional side of it as well as the physical effects of the disease.

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