Singer Selena Gomez made headlines this week when she opened up to Billboard magazine about her battle with lupus, an autoimmune disease that put her through chemotherapy and forced her to take a break in 2014 from touring. “I was diagnosed with lupus, and I’ve been through chemotherapy. That’s what my break was really about. I could’ve had a stroke,” she told Billboard. But what is lupus -- and who is susceptible to it?
Lupus is non-communicable, which means that you can't catch it from another person, and it's an autoimmune disease, which means that the body's immune system mistakenly attacks healthy parts of a person's body instead of dangerous foreign substances.
— billboard (@billboard) October 7, 2015
Everyone reacts differently to lupus, and their symptoms can come and go. Some people have problems with their kidneys. Others suffer from swollen joints. As the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains, it can lead to inflammation and even tissue damage. Scientists and doctors are not sure what causes it, but they suspect that a number of factors, including genes, hormones and the environment, play a role. It primarily affects young women.
There is no cure for lupus, although treatments do exist to alleviate the symptoms, some by suppressing the immune system. Chemotherapy, the treatment Gomez said she went through, can be used in severe cases.
From 1979 to 1998, the number of deaths annually linked to lupus grew from 879 to 1,406. The disease can contribute to organ failure, cardiovascular disease or infection, according to the CDC.
Lupus has afflicted other celebrities and famous people, including R&B singer Toni Braxton, singer Seal and writer Flannery O'Connor, who died from its complications. And as for Gomez? Could she die from this? It doesn't seem likely. She told Billboard her lupus was in remission and that she was staying healthy through "diet, routine and medication" -- and good friends.