Sept. 20 (UPI) -- A new study by Harvard University T. H. Chan School of Public Health found that women with post-traumatic stress disorder are at increased risk for lupus.
Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease where the body's immune system attacks its own tissues and organs. Lupus causes inflammation that can affect many different body systems -- including joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart and lungs, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The study of 54,763 women, published today in Arthritis & Rheumatology, showed women with probable PTSD had an elevated risk of developing lupus nearly three times greater than those women without probable PTSD.
Researchers found the risk of developing lupus in women who had experienced any traumatic event was two times greater than women who had not experienced any trauma.
"We were surprised that exposure to trauma was so strongly associated with risk of lupus--trauma was a stronger predictor of developing lupus than smoking," Dr. Andrea Roberts, of the Department of Environmental Health at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, said in a news release. "Our results add to considerable scientific evidence that our mental health substantially affects our physical health, making access to mental health care even more urgent."
The findings add to increasing evidence that psychosocial trauma and stress responses can lead to autoimmune disease.