In 2013, when Selena Gomez took a break from her acting and singing career, cancelling tours to “spend some time on herself”, the tabloids went crazy speculating her drug addiction and rehab. Then the 23-year-old brave star opened up about her struggles and the real reason she went into rehab in January 2014.
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.
– Selena Gomez to Billboard Magazine
Most people in India got familiar with lupus after it was reported that Sunanda Pushkar, the late wife of Shashi Tharoor, was suffering from this incurable auto-immune disorder.
But what exactly is this chronic disease and why haven’t doctors figured out what causes it?
What is Lupus?
This auto-immune disease, where the immune system attacks the healthy parts of the body is different for every patient.
There is no cure for lupus. It will never go away.
The symptoms can be managed but there is no magical pill that will cure the disease. Like cancer, it can affect any organ and because the symptoms vary significantly, it is difficult to diagnose.
What makes the diagnosis tougher is that there is no specific test for lupus - doctors have to do a work-up of many blood and urine tests before reaching a conclusion. People go undiagnosed for months or years.
Unknown so far, but it is believed that a mix of genetics, hormones, and environmental factors are responsible.
Smoking and the use of estrogen-related contraceptives can trigger the disease in those who are predisposed to the illness. Smoking has also shown to increase the severity and prevalence.
Environmental factors such as ultraviolet light can precipitate the flares.
The symptoms depend on the organ involved. Almost all patients report stiffness in joints, exhaustion, thinning of hair, sensitive skin and a dull memory.
The disease advances with a swelling in the lining of the lungs, which makes breathing painful. Kidneys almost always get affected and symptoms can constantly change and move to other parts of the body.
As it grows and continues to have a longer effect, lupus causes the patient to act different, behaviour-wise.
For example, the patient can hallucinate, or be forgetful, in aggressive forms, even completely forget their personality, who they are, what they do, lose all memory.
What Makes Lupus So Maddeningly Difficult?
The fact that the disease lasts for years and can change dramatically over time. There can be periods of remission followed by relapses, with totally different symptoms at each stage.
And because of the varying ways the body is under attack, it is not rare for patients to suffer from lupus-related complications such as immuno-deficiencies, osteoporosis, various skin and respiratory infections.
Since there is no cure, doctors mainly treat the symptoms (such as rashes or pain) and manage the disease by suppressing the immune system. In Gomez’s case, with chemotherapy.
(For more health news, follow FIT)
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