When pop star Selena Gomez announced that she was battling lupus, it created a buzz about the strange condition that nobody had known much about previously.
Suddenly, everyone became curious about the disease the popstar was battling: what exactly is Lupus? what causes it? And most importantly, is there a cure for it?
If a rich, influential celebrity like Selena Gomez can have it, pretty sure no one is immune from it. But in reality, even when the songstress hadn’t disclosed her health condition, Lupus was more common than you’d think.
Thankfully another star coming out and speaking about it raises awareness and gives hope to others who’re battling the disease.
What is Lupus?
Before we go into details, let’s understand what lupus is. The autoimmune disease is a life-threatening condition that can damage and destroy any organ in your body. Because it is an autoimmune disease, it triggers body’s immune system into self-defense mode where it starts attacking the body’s own healthy cells, organs, and tissues.
The immune system normally safe guards our bodies against infections, but with this illness, it doesn’t do its job and instead wreaks havoc on different parts of the bodies, which results to more damage and other diseases.
Almost 1.5 million Americans suffer from lupus, which means you are not alone if you’re in this battle. According to Hopkins Lupus Center’s co-director Dr. George Stojan, symptoms include facial rashes that usually form a butterfly shape in the cheeks to the nose, stiff and swelling joints, seizures, mouth sores, fevers, low blood count, swollen glands, and chest pain caused by fluid around heart and lungs.
Sixty-five percent of the patients tout chronic pain as the worst symptom of the disease which can often be debilitating.
So what’s causing the disease? This is probably the most frustrating part of one’s journey with the illness. Scientists and doctors are unable to pin-point a single factor that triggers the immune system and the worst part is that there is no cure for the condition. Dr. George explained that although a lot of factors have been associated with lupus, that doesn’t mean causation.
First, genetics may play a role in the development of the disease. A study found that a person has 20 times higher chance of getting lupus if a sibling has it. Another seen factor is race, which sounds far-fetched, but statistics show that it is more common in women of color, including Latinos and Hispanics, Pacific Islanders, African American, and others.
Ultraviolet light also allegedly plays a role in acquiring the disease. It can damage cells, but lupus patients tend to be more sensitive to it. Although it is not seen as a direct cause, it can change the chemical structure of the cells in a way that the immune system sees them as a threat and tries to destroy them.
There is no explanation of how stress affects lupus but patients’ symptoms are triggered by emotional and physical stresses. Exposure to toxic chemicals, hormones, and atmospheric changes may also have a hand in the onset of lupus.
As mentioned, there is no cure for lupus but expert say that the condition is manageable with lifestyle changes and medical treatment which can vary depending on how severe the case is.
Those who have mild symptoms are prescribed antimalarial medicine (hydroxychloroquine) to reduce pain and other symptoms in order to avoid damage to the organs. They can also be given corticosteroids but only for a short course because of the medicine’s side effects.