Actress and Singer Selena Gomez. Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/85/Selena_Gomez_-_Walmart_Soundcheck_Concert.jpg/492px-Selena_Gomez_-_Walmart_Soundcheck_Concert.jpg
Selena Gomez, the Disney channel child actress and now pop singer, recently had a kidney transplant due to the effects of lupus nephritis. The donated kidney came from television star Francia Raisa. Gomez recently disclosed on her Instagram page that she had been out of the spotlight this summer because of her recovery from the procedure. The 25 year-old stated, “it’s what needed to be done for my overall health.” The Instagram post did not reveal her current stage of recovery or say where or when the procedure took place. Gomez said “there aren’t words to describe [it]” in reference to how thankful she is for Raisa’s sacrifice by giving her the ultimate gift.
Understanding Lupus and the Kidney
Lupus is one of the most common autoimmune diseases that many people suffer from. Autoimmune diseases are certain types of disease in which the body attacks its own healthy cells and sees them as invaders in the body. The body naturally has antibodies that recognize foreign invaders, such as bacteria or viruses. In autoimmune disorders, these antibodies for some reason view healthy tissues as invaders and attempt to eliminate them. Lupus, an autoimmune disease, is especially common in women, and can often have a more profound effect on them. It is a tough disease and can affect the kidney, liver, brain, and pancreas.
Around 60-90% of lupus patients with lupus have suffered from some sort of kidney involvement. Whether the kidney is completely damaged or isn’t functioning properly, the kidney is the most commonly affected area. The kidney is the body’s filter for any “junk” that may be present in the bloodstream. Over 100 drops of blood are processed through the kidney everyday, which is why it is such an affected organ in relation to lupus. With patients like Gomez, where a kidney transplant is necessary, clumps of the body’s antibodies get stuck inside the kidney. These clumps accumulate over time and cause the patient's kidney to be progressively damaged. It is not usual for patients with lupus to need a kidney transplant, but in cases like Gomez, it is a life saving procedure. Recently, medication has been developed that has helped slow the decay of the kidney as well as halted kidney failure, which has been the leading cause of death for many lupus patients. The medication has a lot of side effects that patients must be able to tolerate; otherwise, a transplant may be the only solution.
Gomez’s Career with Lupus
Gomez revealed her lupus diagnosis back in 2015, which is also the time that she took a break from her career to focus on anxiety issues, panic attacks, and her depression from dealing with the disease. The revival tour, which was planned to end in Guadalajara, Mexico in December 2016, was cut short as Gomez took time off during the tour to deal with the medical issue she was facing. While the chronic disease can remain inactive for months before any signs of flare-up, it's often a misunderstood disease. Organizations like the Lupus Research Alliance are working towards a cure. For many, a kidney transplant is necessary, and luckily Gomez was able to receive one from her best friend. After the procedure, lupus patients will find the effects to be mild and possibly even inactive.
Gomez has stated previously that she was dealing with anxiety and depression caused by the symptoms of Lupus. Studies have shown evidence of nerve cell damage and emotional effects in patients that have lupus. This damage can include damage to the brain, which may cause patients to feel strong negative emotions. Researchers have used MRI scans to see exactly what goes on in the brain during the times when patients feel strong symptoms such as joint pain and fatigue. These symptoms resulted in them suffering from depression because of the inability to function properly and the amount of downtime required to cope with the symptoms. In people like Gomez, a kidney transplant is the only solution to the issue as a whole, including mental health. Researchers continue to develop medication that can deal with lupus symptoms and the underlining issue of mental health problems. Mental health issues are a common issue among chronic disease patients, and many have suffered from depression and anxiety. With over 45 million followers on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites, Gomez is receiving support from all of her fans.
Why a Transplant is Necessary
If a lupus patients has what is known as lupus nephritis, like Gomez, a kidney transplant is the only solution and prevention of death. The general practice is to give patients medication; however, the medicine replaces symptoms with intense side effects. The medication prevents the build-up of antibodies in the kidney that causes it to not function properly. Lupus causes an excess amount of waste to “filter” through the kidney. However, the issue is that lupus sends healthy tissue as well through the kidney as well. Lupus is a truly ruthless disease that causes many issues in multiple areas of the body, with the kidney being affected the most in lupus nephritis patients. When the patient doesn’t respond to the medication, this results in a necessary kidney transplant.
Gomez was lucky enough to receive the kidney from her best friend, Francia Raisa, and this will result in a life of mild or even absent lupus symptoms. Once the procedure is done, it is a high probability that the kidney will not become infected again. Every patient who has a kidney transplant will need to take a daily medication that suppresses the immune system so that the kidney isn’t rejected by the body. According to medical professionals, the medication also treats lupus, so it is a win-win for the patient who has this procedure. When a patient has lupus nephritis, the suppressants are also treating other lupus symptoms.
The Effect of the Announcement
American Lupus Research Alliance recently saw a huge boost in their pledges to due to Selena Gomez's fight against lupus. The pop star going under for a kidney transplant inspire thousands to donate and the foundation recently they acquired over $500,000 for research and development. After she announced her best friend Raisa had donated her kidney, she urged fans to go register as a donor so that others may benefit from the generous gift of life.