Kat de Naoum | Contributing Writer | Saturday, 31 October 2015

Selena Gomez Lupus

Selena Gomez Has Lupus So Err... What Is Lupus?

The Debrief: Selena Gomez's mystery illness and 21 useful Q&As

Did you know that October is Lupus Awareness Month? To help raise awareness of the issue, Selena Gomez recently declared that she has Lupus and had to have chemotherapy to treat it (as oppose to hanging out in rehab, which is what it was reported she was doing at the time). This raised a lot of questions for us. 21 to be exact.

1. What is Lupus disease?

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (or Lupus for short) Is a chronic autoimmune disease which attacks the immune system hence damaging any part of the body, from the skin and joints to the internal organs. 

2. What does 'autoimmune' mean?

Our immune system produces antibodies which help fight bad stuff like bacteria and germs. Autoimmune means that our body can’t tell between the germs and the healthy tissue and starts producing antibodies which go destroying everything even the good stuff that we want.

3. Isn’t Selena Gomez a bit young to have Systemic Lupus Erythematosus?

Not at all, in fact she is the exact right age to have it. Lupus most commonly affects women who are of childbearing age around 15-44 but men and children are not immune to getting it either.

4. Is Lupus contagious?

Don’t be daft. You can not in any way catch Lupus from anyone or give it to anyone.

5. What are the most common symptoms of Lupus?

The thing is with Lupus is that it creates antibodies which can attack any area of the body, so the symptoms are vast. The most common though are: -

•Swollen or painful joints

•High temperature

•Anemia

•Extreme tiredness (fatigue)

•Headaches

•Swelling of hands, feet, legs

•Puffy eyes

•Abnormal blood clotting

•Fingers turning white/blue when cold

•Ulcers in the mouth or nose

•Chest pain when taking a deep breath

•Sensitivity to the light

•Hair loss

•Lupus rash (across cheeks and nose in the shape of a butterfly)

6. What is Discoid Lupus (Lupus rash)?

Discoid Lupus is a common symptom of Lupus affecting two in three sufferers. It is a skin rash most commonly appearing on the face, ears, neck, arms and legs. This can be made worse by sunlight. It can appear across the cheeks and nose in the shape of a butterfly or the shape of a wolf’s bite (this is how Lupus got its name back in the day; Lupus is Latin for 'wolf').

7. Any other Lupus symptoms we should know about?

Almost anything can be a Lupus symptom because it can affect any area of the body. Lupus is also known as 'The Great Imitator' because there are so many symptoms which resemble the symptoms of other diseases. Lupus has sometimes been mistaken for Lyme disease, fibromyalgia and diabetes, to name a few.

8. Is Lupus disease a form of cancer?

Nope. Cancer is bad malignant tissues which spread to other cells and tissues whereas Lupus is an autoimmune disease which attacks its own healthy parts mistaking them for foreign invaders.

9. So why did Selena Gomez have chemotherapy for her Lupus?

There is a form of chemotherapy called cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan®) which is used to treat cancer and can also be used to treat Lupus.

10. How long do the Lupus symptoms last?

Lupus is a chronic disease so the signs and symptoms of Lupus can last anywhere from six weeks to years.

11. Can you die from Lupus?

If symptoms are not treated then yes, they can be life-threatening, but with all the treatments available, one should be able to live a full, long life.

12. How can you tell if you have Lupus?

This is a tough one. Obviously if you have more than a few symptoms, you will need to have all the lab tests done. No one lab test can diagnose Lupus, and no one doctor can either. Keeping a diary of symptoms is helpful in Lupus diagnosis and will assist your doctor to be able to send you to the correct specialists and get the best treatment.

13. What is daily life with Lupus like? 

With good care, a good doctor and proper treatment, you should be able to live a normal life. It’s also important to have good people around you who know about your disease and can help you if need be. 

14. Can Lupus be cured?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for Lupus BUT there is an array of treatment available.

15. But Selena Gomez seems to be better now…

Lupus can flare up and sufferers can be ill for weeks at a time, and then it can go into remission and they can be fine for long periods of time too. 

16. What does one aim to gain with Lupus treatment?

Lupus treatment can help to control Lupus symptoms, minimising the damage to the organs. It can reduce inflammation, suppress the overactive immune system, treat flares when they occur and even prevent them.

17. How can you treat Lupus?

Depending on your symptoms, you may  need to be referred to specialist doctors, i.e. if you have swelling in the joints, you will also need to see a rheumatologist (joints and muscle doctor). Your doctor will help you create a course of action and a treatment plan, depending on your age, lifestyle and symptoms.

18. Any other Lupus treatments apart from Chemotherapy?

Loads! From aspirin to corticosteroids. Have a look at the full list of medications used to treat Lupus and its many symptoms.

19. Anything other tips on dealing with Lupus?

•Get a good doctor and follow the set treatment plan

•Stay out of the sun

•Learn all there is to know about Lupus

•Make sure you get enough rest and don’t overwork yourself

•Don’t keep it all bottled up; open up to loved ones

•Put that pride aside and accept help from people

•Get new interests and activities and keep yourself busy

•See a therapist to help you through the emotional side of dealing with Lupus.

20. Where can I get more information about Lupus?

Lupus UK is a goldmine of information on Lupus from all the symptoms possible and all the available treatments of each one. You can also find more information about Lupus on these following sites: -

Lupus Foundation of America

Alliance for Lupus Research

Medical News Today

Mayo Clinic

21. Can I donate to Lupus UK?

Yes indeedy! You can donate here.

Like this? Then you might also like...

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Ask An Adult: What's Thrush How Do I Stop It And Why Do I Get It?

Follow Kat on Twitter @SuperKaterina

Picture: selenagomez/Instagram

Tags: Health