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What is lupus and what causes it? Selena Gomez talks about her battle with the disease

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Megan Murray
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Many people are still confused by lupus disease and what causes it. Selena Gomez has opened up about suffering with the condition and the need for more awareness around it. 

Selena Gomez has said that she will suffer with anxiety and depression as a result of her health issues, for the rest of her life. Gomez touched on the subject after being asked to predict what the year 2018 holds for her, in a recent Harper’s Bazaar interview.

Although optimistic that the next 12 months will be easier than the last, Gomez believes she will battle with mental health issues for the rest of her life.

“I’ve had a lot of issues with depression and anxiety, and I’ve been very vocal about it, but it’s not something I feel I’ll ever overcome,” she tells the publication.

“There won’t be a day when I’m like, ‘Here I am in a pretty dress—I won!’ I think it’s a battle I’m gonna have to face for the rest of my life, and I’m okay with that because I know that I’m choosing myself over anything else.”

Gomez also revealed that she concentrates on leading a healthy lifestyle in order to deal with health-related stress – something that will remain a big focus of hers for the coming year.

“Anyone who knows me, knows I will always start with my health and my well-being.

“I want to make sure I’m healthy. If that’s good, everything else will fall into place,” she adds. 

The singer’s kidneys went into failure after suffering with the disease 

Gomez went through a traumatic experience last year when her kidneys failed as a result of her battle with lupus.

Luckily, her life was saved during a secret operation in which her best friend donated one of her kidneys to the singer.

Posting an image of the pair to Instagram in September last year, Gomez explained why she had been “laying low” for the previous few months and opened up about the trauma that she’d been through.

Gomez wrote: “I’m very aware some of my fans had noticed I was laying low for part of the summer and questioning why I wasn’t promoting my new music, which I was extremely proud of.

“So, I found out I needed to get a kidney transplant due to my lupus and was recovering. It was what I needed to do for my overall health. I honestly look forward to sharing with you, soon my journey through these past several months as I have always wanted to do with you.

“Until then I want to publicly thank my family and incredible team of doctors for everything they have done for me prior to and post-surgery.”

A post shared by Selena Gomez (@selenagomez) on

Signing off the post with a tribute to her friend, Gomez said she felt “incredibly blessed”.

“And finally, there aren’t words to describe how I can possibly thank my beautiful friend Francia Raisa,” she added. “She gave me the ultimate gift and sacrifice by donating her kidney to me. I am incredibly blessed. I love you so much sis.”

The singer also highlighted the need for more awareness around the illness, describing it as “misunderstood”, as many people still feel confused about what lupus is, and what causes it.

To help build this awareness, we’ve answered some of the most commonly asked questions about the condition.

What is lupus disease? 

Lupus, also known as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), is a long term condition causing inflammation to the joints, skin and other organs. Its wide-spread effects are one of the reasons it’s not commonly understood as it affects all sufferers differently. 

Symptoms of lupus

In its mildest form, lupus will provoke joint and skin inflammation, as well as symptoms of fatigue. A tell-tale sign of lupus is lupus rash, which takes the form of a red, butterfly-shaped skin rash across the center of the face. It usually covers both cheeks and grazes the bridge of the nose. General inflammation of the skin can also mean flaky, red spots or a scaly, purple rash on various parts of the body, including the face, neck, and arms.

If the disease progresses further or becomes more aggressive, the inflammation may affect organs such as the lungs, heart and kidneys. In severe cases, lupus can cause life-threatening damage to the heart, lungs, brain or kidneys.

Typically, lupus symptoms alternate between flaring up and becoming worse for periods of time and then settling down and going into remission for a few weeks. It is not known why this happens – and some people don’t feel a fluctuation at all. 

What causes lupus?

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes the body’s immune system to attack itself. Although there are supposed triggers, no one knows exactly what causes it.

It is not contagious, but it’s thought that a viral infection, strong medication, sunlight, puberty, childbirth and the menopause are all possible triggers of the disease.

Although lupus can affect anyone, more women than men get the condition and it’s more common in those with black or Asian heritage.

The disease is more common in women than men 

How is lupus diagnosed?

Lupus symptoms are often mistaken as markers for other illnesses, meaning it can take a while to successfully diagnose the disease. Diagnosis can involve doing blood tests and X-rays of the heart, kidneys or other organs. 

Can you cure lupus disease? 

There is currently no cure for lupus disease, and it is generally treated with anti-inflammatory medicines and steroid tablets.

Those suffering with lupus are advised to do what they can to manage their condition at home by living a healthy lifestyle.

Treatment for lupus

Treatment for lupus depends on the severity of the sufferer’s condition. Those affected could be given anti-inflammatory medicine, such as ibuprofen, if their condition is considered mild.

Hydroxychloroquine is a medication that is sometimes used to combat fatigue and skin and joint problems.

To treat lupus rash, or problems with organs such as the kidneys, steroid tablets, injections and creams may be prescribed.

Lupus sufferers should also try their best to live a healthy lifestyle, including eating a balanced diet, staying active with low intensity exercise such as walking or swimming, getting lots of rest and avoiding direct sunlight.

One of the biggest things a GP advises those fighting lupus to do is give up smoking. Smoking is said to antagonise the disease and should therefore be avoided if possible. 

Images: Rex features / iStock

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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a digital journalist for stylist.co.uk, who enjoys writing about London happenings, beautiful places, delicious morsels and generally spreading sparkle wherever she can.

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