A version of this story discussing Selena Gomez’s lupus originally ran on Oct. 12, 2015. The story was updated on Nov. 22, 2016 when Gomez shared her struggles with anxiety and depression at the American Music Awards. We’re updating it today because Gomez revealed to her fans that she spent the summer recovering from a kidney transplant.
After months of silence, Selena Gomez posted a photo to her Instagram account holding hands with her friend and donor, Francia Raisa. ” … there aren’t words to describe how I can possible thank my beautiful friend Francia Raisa,” Gomez wrote. “She gave me the ultimate gift and sacrifice by donating her kidney to me.”
According to the National Kidney Foundation, lupus can cause inflammation (swelling or scarring) of the small blood vessels that filter waste in your kidney and sometimes the kidneys, by attacking them like they would attack a disease. Lupus patients with new kidneys do as well as any other patients who have undergone a transplant.
What exactly is lupus? And how common is it, especially for someone who is only 25 years old?
From the Lupus Foundation: “Lupus is a chronic, autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body (skin, joints, and/or organs inside the body).” This means that the body’s immune system can’t tell the difference between your body’s tissues, which are healthy, and other foreign viruses and bacteria (like the flu).
For people with lupus, their immune systems may “fight” the healthy tissues, which causes inflammation, pain and damage to the skin, joints and/or organs.
Here is a list of other common symptoms:
- Chest pain when taking a deep breath
- Fever with no other cause
- General discomfort, uneasiness, or ill feeling (malaise)
- Hair loss
- Mouth sores
- Sensitivity to sunlight
- Skin rash – a “butterfly” rash in about half of the people with lupus. The rash is most often seen over the cheeks and bridge of the nose, but can be widespread. It gets worse in sunlight.
- Swollen lymph nodes
Lupus and other autoimmune diseases are relatively rare, according to Today. Besides Gomez, about five million other people are afflicted with lupus across the world. As of right now, there is no cure.
Although Gomez underwent chemotherapy treatments, lupus is not related to or a precursor of cancer. The intensity of the disease calls for different treatment plans. “Milder cases can be treated with immunosuppressants or anti-inflammatories, such as aspirin or steroids,” according to CNN.
And, despite being an autoimmune disease, it is also not related to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) or Human Immune Deficiency Virus (HIV).
Anyone who believes they have lupus is advised to see a doctor as soon as possible. While some cases are more mild, others are life-threatening and it is most common for women ages 15-44. Men, ages 15-44, are also susceptible, though it is less common.
According to the Lupus Foundation, women of color are also two to three times more likely to develop lupus.
If you have specific questions about the disease, check out the Foundation’s FAQ section.
Selena Gomez: ‘I was absolutely broken inside’
Many wondered whether actress, singer and fashion designer Selena Gomez would make an appearance at the American Music Awards after months of flying under the radar.
But she showed up, and she showed up in a huge way for people struggling with mental health issues of their own.
The star reminded people that “[if]you are broken you do not have to stay broken.”
She also thanked her fans and explained, “I had to stop. I had everything and I was absolutely broken inside.”
“When celebrities speak out about mental health issues, it helps bring attention to the struggles many people face on a daily basis,” said Gail Rizzo, LPCC-s, CADC.
Rizzo, a child and family counselor with St. Elizabeth Healthcare, added, “It lets them know they’re not alone, and it may even encourage them to get the help they need.”
Anxiety, panic attacks and depression are not normal – even for celebrities. If you or someone you know is struggling, you are not alone. Click here to get help.
Cover image courtesy of Kevin Winter/Getty Images