What having lupus means for Selena Gomez

Selena Gomez
Selena Gomez

There have been rumours that the singer has the debilitating auto-immune disease, but only now has her family admitted that she was diagnosed a couple of years ago. It's said that her symptoms are under control. 

Her media loving grandfather Ricardo Gomez told the press : ''She's in treatment. She's getting along pretty good.''

Earlier this year, Selena - who has an on/off relationship with Justin Bieber - checked into rehab (ostensibly for exhaustion)  and her elderly relative is desperate for her to now follow medical advice and take a break from her career.

The US Office of Minority Health says Hispanic women are three times more likely to be diagnosed with lupus. Also, 90 percent of individuals with lupus are women, and Hispanic women tend to develop symptoms at a much earlier age compared to other women.

She joins other celebrities who also have the condition, notably singers Seal and Tony Braxton.

What is Lupus?

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic, inflammatory auto-immune disorder (in which the body's defence system attacks its own tissues), which may affect one or many organs, including the skin, joints and internal organs.

The following are common manifestations of SLE. One or all of these may occur, depending on the severity of the case:

Skin: About 50% of SLE sufferers experience a malar “butterfly” rash over the cheeks and the bridge of the nose. This rash may also appear on other parts of the body that are exposed to sun, and is made worse by sun exposure. Other kinds of skin lesions or nodules may also occur.

Musculoskeletal: Characterised by joint pain and development of arthritis, usually in the fingers, hands, knees and wrists. Bone tissue death in the bones of the shoulders and hips can also cause extreme pain.

Kidney: Roughly half of people with SLE have lupus nephritis (persistent inflammation of the kidney), while most have protein deposits in some of the cells of the kidney. Those with full lupus nephritis may suffer renal failure, and require dialysis or kidney transplantation to survive.

Nervous system: Up to 25% of SLE sufferers are affected by neurological disorders, particularly mild mental dysfunction. Any area of the brain, spinal cord, or nervous system can be negatively affected. Symptoms may include headaches, seizures, psychosis and organic brain syndrome (brain function loss).

Blood disorders: These affect up to 85% of patients with SLE. Arterial blood clots may form, and are associated with strokes and pulmonary embolism (blockage of an artery in the lungs).

The number of platelets (particles in the blood important for the clotting process) may also decrease, or antibodies (proteins normally produced by the immune system to defend against harmful invasive substances) form that prevent blood clotting. This results in lupus anticoagulant. Many patients develop anaemia.

Heart disorders: Inflammation of the heart may occur, causing chest pain and pounding of the heart. Lung disorders:

Chest pain and shortness of breath are often the result of SLE-related disorders such as pleurisy (inflammation of the lung), and pleural effusions (fluid collection between the lung and its lining).

Read more:

SLE and your diet - what foods to avoid, and what foods to eat more of

New lupus treatments on the way

Image: Selena Gomez, Shutterstock

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