Selena Gomez, Arguably the World's Most Famous Lupus Warrior

Who is Lupus Warrior, Selena Gomez?

Selena Gomez, a multi-talented American singer, actress and producer, has been an influential figure in the entertainment industry since her childhood. She started her career at the age of 15, on set of the Disney Channel Show, Waverly Place, back in 2007. 

However, beyond her successful career, Gomez has also become an advocate and public figure in the Lupus community, since her lupus diagnosis in 2014.

What is Lupus?

Lupus is a group of autoimmune diseases which are chronic, life-long inflammatory disorders where the immune system attacks it's own organs and cells. All forms of lupus can cause pain and inflammation and as of yet there is no known cure. The most common form of lupus is systemic lupus erythematosus. 

What are the different types of lupus?

While Systemic Lupus is the most common form, there are many types of lupus, including but not limited to: 

  • Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus (CLE): This form primarily affects the skin. There are different subtypes of CLE, including discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE), subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus (SCLE), and acute cutaneous lupus erythematosus (ACLE).
  • Drug-Induced Lupus: a temporary form of lupus caused by certain medications
  • Neonatal Lupus: A rare form of lupus that can affect babies born to women with lupus
  • Lupus Nephritis: A form of lupus that affects the kidneys

Selena's Lupus Diagnosis

In 2015, Gomez revealed that she had been diagnosed with a disease called lupus a year prior. Systemic Lupus is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks its own tissues and organs, especially the kidney, heart, lungs & skin. Lupus can affect almost all parts of the body, leading to symptoms such as joint pain & swelling, skin rashes, fatigue, mouth sores, random fevers, sun sensitivity and in severe cases, damage to internal organs such as the kidneys, lungs and heart. Gomez's decision to share her diagnosis was not only a personal revelation but also an opportunity to educate the public and bring attention to a disease that often remains vastly misunderstood.

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Living with lupus is very much a daily challenge, and Gomez has been open about the impact the disease has had on her life. She's experienced bouts of severe fatigue and even underwent chemotherapy to manage her kidney disease. (Lupus symptoms have been described as feeling like you have the flu.) Despite the physical and emotional toll, Gomez has shown complete resilience and courage in navigating her health journey while maintaining her professional dreams and goals. 

In 2017, Selena Gomez announced on her Instagram account that she had underwent a kidney transplant. Unfortunately systemic lupus sometimes causes a type of kidney disease known as lupus nephritis - and occasionally lupus nephritis turns into kidney failure, as was the case in Selena's situation. The singer and actress has been open about her health struggles, especially in relation to her needing a new kidney. (Up to 60% of all lupus patients will experience kidney involvement.)

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Did you know that Selena Gomez nicknamed her new kidney 'Fred'?

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Selena Gomez shared a heartfelt post, revealing that over the summer her best friend, Francia Raisa had donated her kidney to Selena. The post included a photo of Gomez and her Francia. In the post, Gomez expressed her gratitude for the support she received during her lupus journey and highlighted the importance of finding a living organ donation.

Raisa, known for her roles in television series like "The Secret Life of the American Teenager," has been a close friend of Gomez for years. She volunteered to be a kidney donor when it became apparent that Gomez needed a new kidney to survive and that the two were a match for each other. 

What is Lupus Nephritis?

Lupus nephritis is a medical condition that occurs when the autoimmune disease lupus affects the kidneys. Lupus nephritis is characterized by inflammation in the kidneys that affects their ability to filter waste from the body. 

Lupus Nephritis may cause symptoms such as: 

  • Blood in the urine
  • Foamy urine 
  • High blood pressure
  • Decreased kidney function (Low GFR) 
  • Swelling (also called edema) in the legs, ankles and/or around the eyes

It's important to note that lupus nephritis may not have any symptoms in the early stages so it's important to be regularly monitored by your care team. 

One of the most significant contributions Selena Gomez has made to lupus awareness was her decision to step back from the spotlight to focus on her mental and physical health. This move not only demonstrated her commitment to self-care but also shed light on the importance of prioritizing one's own well-being, especially when dealing with a chronic illness as serious lupus (SLE). Gomez's openness about her struggles has undoubtedly inspired others facing similar health issues and has helped break down stigmas surrounding all autoimmune diseases.

Selena Gomez and Lupus Research Alliance

In addition to sharing her personal experiences, for the last several years Gomez has been actively using her platform to advocate for lupus awareness and research. She became involved with the Lupus Research Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing lupus research and finding better treatments and ultimately a cure. By leveraging her fame, Gomez has been able to amplify the voices of those personally affected by lupus.

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In November 2020, Selena Gomez rallied for the New York LRA Virtual Fundraising Event, helping to raise the organization a whopping $3.1 million. She shared her personal story with the over 5,000 Virtual Attendees for the year's event, emphasizing the need for more lupus treatments. 

(Selena is also a supporter of other non-profit charities including UNICEF and The Ryan Seacrest Foundation.)

Gomez has also been transparent about the emotional toll that comes with managing a life-long disease. Her willingness to discuss anxiety and depression, which can be common comorbidities* with lupus, has fostered conversations about mental health on a much larger scale.

All that said, Selena's health journey serves as a testimony to her strength, resilience and advocacy for overall immune health. By openly sharing her personal experiences, prioritizing self-care, and engaging in volunteer work, Gomez has become a powerful voice for the lupus community. Her impact extends beyond the entertainment industry, inspiring people all over to prioritize their health, seek support and contribute to the ongoing dialogue surrounding the lupus community. As Gomez continues to navigate her health journey, her influence as an advocate for lupus community remains a significant and commendable aspect of her celebrity.

*A comorbidity refers to the presence of two or more coexisting medical conditions or diseases in a single person. These conditions can occur simultaneously and may interact in various ways, influencing the course and outcomes of each other. Comorbidities are common in autoimmune diseases, and they can complicate the diagnosis, treatment and management of a person's overall health.
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5 Fast Facts About Selena Gomez

  1. Selena Gomez was born July 22, 1992, in Grand Prairie, Texas, USA.
  2. Selena has had a successful career in multiple fields including acting, singing and song-writing. 
  3. Selena acted on the show 'Barney and Friends' when she was just 7 years old. 
  4. Selena Gomez is named after Selena Quintanilla, who was murdered in 1995.
  5. Selena has said she takes inspiration from Britney Spears. 

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