Earlier this year, artist Selena Gomez announced that she’s taking some time off to focus on her health after suffering from anxiety and depression related to an earlier diagnosis of lupus, an autoimmune disease that required her to go through chemotherapy.
Gomez accepted the American Music Award on Sunday for favourite female artist in the pop/rock category, and in her acceptance speech touched upon the ways the disease had impacted her life.
“I think it’s safe to say that all of you know my life whether I like it or not,” she said in her acceptance speech. “I had to stop because I had everything and I was absolutely broken inside. I kept it all together enough to where I would never let you down but I kept it too much together to where I let myself down.”
Here’s what you need to know about the disease.
Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease
According to the Lupus Foundation of America, the disease can damage any part of the body, including joints, skin and internal organs, and causes the immune system to be unable to tell the difference between foreign invaders and healthy tissues.
Lupus therefore creates antibodies that can kill healthy tissue, in addition to causing inflammation, damage, and pain throughout the body. In other words, it causes the immune system to be overactive.
An estimated 1.5 million people in the US have the condition. It tends to affect women more than men, though most tend to develop the disease between the ages of 15 and 44.
Lupus can cause a number of symptoms beyond the ones Gomez is experiencing
Kenneth M. Farber, co-CEO and co-president of the Lupus Research Alliance, told People that the disease is “sometimes very misunderstood.”
“It is not commonly known that depression, anxiety, and panic attacks can be side effects of lupus,” Farber said.
The disease can also bring about a ton of other symptoms, including swollen joints, fever, fatigue, rashes, chest pain, hair loss, anemia, and more.
There’s no cure, but there are treatment options
There are a bunch of different treatment options for lupus. It’s treated by a variety of different medicines, ranging from mild to strong, according to the Lupus Foundation of America.
The drugs are geared towards reducing inflammation, suppressing the immune system, preventing flare ups, controlling symptoms and minimising organ damage.
Gomez isn’t the only celebrity that’s opened up about the disease
Lady Gaga told CNN’s Larry King in 2010 that she tested “borderline positive” for lupus, though she hasn’t suffered from any symptoms. However, she noted that the disease runs in her family.
Nick Cannon revealed in 2012 that he has lupus, and even spoke with the Lupus Foundation of America about living with the disease in a 2014 interview.
Lisa Ryan contributed to an earlier version of this post.
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