What Is Lupus? 9 Painful Realities You Face Every Day Living With The Condition
As you may have heard, Selena Gomez recently posted on Instagram about the kidney transplant she received from actress and friend Francia Raisa over the summer as a result of her battle with lupus. Gomez spoke to her fans about laying low this summer despite her new music, explaining that this operation, and her healing process, were the reasons for her absence. Now, she's ready to share what it's been like living with lupus and, in the process, she's providing a huge platform to educate others about the disease and the symptoms that people cope with every day. So what exactly is lupus?
Well, to give some background, lupus is an autoimmune disease for which there is not yet a cure.
Essentially, it is a chronic inflammatory disease, in which your immune system attacks the body's organs and tissues. It's not totally clear what causes lupus, and it can be somewhat challenging to diagnose. While some people are simply more prone to developing the condition, it can also be triggered by things like major exposure to sunlight and infections, according to Mayo Clinic.
While lupus cannot be cured, those who have the condition focus on maintaining their symptoms and cultivating a good quality of life. This means focusing on things like good self-care, including proper protection from the sun and following a nutritious diet.
Though symptoms vary from person to person depending on which parts and organs of the body are affected, here are a few common realities that people with lupus face on a daily basis.
A lack of energy and a constant feeling of being tired are just a couple of the major, everyday realities people with lupus face.
It definitely puts things in perspective when you think about what Selena Gomez's hectic lifestyle must be like, and then add a lupus diagnosis into the mix.
One of the more common symptoms, a facial rash -- particularly one identified as “butterfly” shaped -- is one of the more tell-tale signs of lupus.
You know how when your body is fighting something, you get a fever? Because people with lupus have bodies that are constantly fighting something, fevers tend to be pretty common occurrences.
Plus, a fever is often a signal of an oncoming flare-up.
4. Shortness Of Breath
About 50 percent of people who suffer from lupus experience issues with their lungs, which includes shortness of breath, chest pain, and a condition called pleurisy, which is when a membrane that covers the outside of your lungs becomes inflamed, according to the National Resource Center on Lupus.
5. Joint Pain
Stiffness, swelling, pain in the joints, and general aches are all really common symptoms because, again, it is an inflammatory illness in the body.
6. Skin Lesions
Skin conditions (of which there are a wide variety) are one of the major identifying factors of lupus. According to the Johns Hopkins Lupus Center, 50 percent of those with lupus deal with these symptoms throughout the course of the disease.
The amount of sun exposure one gets is a major consideration here, as a person with lupus can more easily develop skin lesions and severe sunburn as a result of heightened sensitivity to UV rays.
7. Raynaud's Phenomenon
You may have heard of Raynaud's, a condition in which the toes and fingers turn blue or white when a person is either particularly stressed, or exposed to the cold.
People with lupus are at a higher risk of developing this condition, which is not typically life-threatening, but should be taken care of with concern, because if oxygen is completely cut off from these various parts of the body for too long, it can lead to more serious problems like skin ulcers.
8. Dry Eyes
The eye is one of the most protected organs -- so much so, in fact, they are referred to as "immune privileged."
But an autoimmune disease like lupus can be strong enough to outweigh the extra work the immune system does to keep the eyes in good order.
9. Confusion And Memory Loss
Some refer to this as “lupus fog," which can include a variety of cognitive impairments, like feeling confused, forgetting things, trouble focusing, or difficulty expressing yourself.
It's not completely clear why this occurs, but in some cases, lupus can cause damage to brain cells. Janet Foley Orosz, PhD, who is a public policy expert with lupus, told WebMD,
When you're a person dealing with lupus fog, you don't worry that much about what's causing it. What you care about is learning how to work around it.
So, here's to the bravery of those dealing with this condition. And thank you, Selena and Francia, for bravely sharing your experiences and continuing to be amazing inspirations to us all.