In the music industry, there weren’t many up-and-coming stars who could match the meteoric rise Selena Gomez had been experiencing for several years. Then, starting in 2015, it appeared as though she had decided to slow down. Countless news outlets, being what they are, immediately started up the rumor mill and began to speculate about what it was exactly that had befallen Selena Gomez. Lupus, to their surprise, turned out to be the answer.
It wasn’t drug abuse or some other condition of that nature which provides such fertile ground for rumors and celebrity gossip. Instead, it was a very serious disease, one that the general public may not know enough about. As such, it certainly warrants a closer look.
What Is Lupus?
For the sake of accuracy, the proper name of this condition is systemic lupus erythematosus. But, everyone simply refers to it as lupus, and it belongs to the category of autoimmune diseases. When someone has lupus, what happens is that their immune system, the organism’s shield against disease, begins to erroneously attack their own body.
Healthy tissue and organs come under assault, resulting in inflammation. This can affect various parts of the organism – skin, kidneys, heart, and many other body systems. Because it can manifest in so many different parts of the body, lupus is not an easy disease to diagnose. It does have one rather distinctive sign, a facial rash that many think looks like a butterfly, but that does not appear in every case.
When it comes to the cause of lupus, doctors do not have a definitive answer. The general belief is that it is a mixture of genetic predisposition and elements from one’s environment. And while the exact cause of the illness remains elusive, researchers have been able to pinpoint several risk factors which show who has a higher risk of developing it. They are:
Women have a far greater chance of getting lupus than men. Conservative estimates claim that ratio is 4-to-1, while some go as far as to say that women are 12 times more likely to develop the disease.
Research shows that people of Asian, Hispanic, and African descent are at a greater risk than Caucasians.
While lupus can affect a person regardless of their age, most cases occur when the patient is between 15 and 45 years of age.
Symptoms and Treatment
As mentioned, lupus can affect many different parts of your body. As such, it has numerous potential symptoms, and no two cases are completely the same. But, the disease does tend to follow a pattern: there will be an episode when the symptoms, whatever they may be, flare up and become more pronounced, followed by a period of time when they are much less severe (perhaps even unnoticeable).
Among others, those many symptoms include fatigue, joint pain, chest pain, headaches, sensitivity to the sun, neuropsychiatric issues, etc. In situations when the disease takes a turn for the worse, complications can arise and cause very serious, even life-threatening, problems. For example, lupus can do major damage to the kidneys. So much so that when a person suffering from lupus dies, kidney failure is one of the most frequent causes.
Unfortunately, there are many other possible complications, cementing lupus as a disease not to be taken lightly.
Further compounding this sentiment is the fact that there is no cure for it. Even though nobody likes to hear this in the 21st century, but there is still an extensive list of conditions that remain incurable. And lupus is on it.
However, this does not mean no treatment is available. It’s quite the opposite, as a matter of fact. Many different therapies have their place when it comes to managing the symptoms of lupus, and the exact choice will depend on how the disease presents itself. You will frequently see the use of immunosuppressant drugs (to slow down the erratic behavior of the immune system) and corticosteroids (to fight off inflammation), to name but two.
A Closer Look at Selena Gomez’s Struggle with Lupus
The first time the public learned of the young singer’s struggles with this autoimmune disease was in 2015. Previously, Gomez was forced to check into a rehab facility in Arizona due to her condition. Of course, rumors concerning a possible drug problem immediately began to swirl around the internet. But after taking a bit of time to come to terms with her illness, the singer publicly announced the details concerning her health, including how the time in the Arizona facility was spent undergoing chemotherapy.
Unfortunately, this would only mark the beginning of her problems. In 2016, she had to take a break from her music career in order to deal with the panic attacks, episodes of anxiety, and feelings of depression she was experiencing. All of these are side effects of lupus, perhaps lesser-known ones.
Finally, things came to a head in 2017 when she had to get a kidney transplant due to the damage the illness had caused to her organs (known as lupus nephritis). The surgery went well, and Gomez resumed her career shortly afterward.
When celebrities get sick, it tends to attract a lot of media attention. Naturally, this also turned out to be the case with Selena Gomez. Lupus made the headlines as a result, and this has had a very positive effect on raising the awareness of this disease.
In addition, Gomez spoke very openly about her condition, adding to this effect. She also used her fame to help raise significant funds for lupus research. For her efforts, the Lupus Research Alliance honored her during their gala event held in New York in November of 2017.
As an incurable and potentially life-threatening disease, lupus represents a momentous challenge to anyone who develops it. Still, several treatment strategies already exist, and further research may open up fresh options in the future.
Selena Gomez is one of many people struggling with its symptoms, but her plight has helped draw attention to this illness. Hopefully, this will add momentum to the search for new insights into this disease.