With a series of Instagram posts in September 2017, Selena Gomez shared that she’d undergone a kidney transplant at just 24, due to lupus-related organ damage. The announcement sent a shock wave through the media generated and a lot of discussion online-and educated many about the severe side of this misunderstood disease.
What is lupus and how does it affect the kidneys?
In lupus, something goes wrong with the immune system. “Instead of the immune system fighting off things like infection and cancer, it turns against the individual and starts acting on their own organs,” says Dr. Gary Gilkeson, professor of medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina.
60% of all people with lupus, and as many as 2/3 children with lupus, will develop kidney complications. And, recent research indicates that Hispanics with lupus have an even higher risk for this potentially fatal complication.
What changes can someone expect after a kidney transplant?
After appropriate recovery, recipients of kidney transplants should be able to return to their previous lives, including working, exercising, and enjoying life.
Like most people who receive transplants, Selena will be on medicine that suppresses her immune system. The most common side effect of these immunosuppressant medications is increased risk of infection. Many lupus patients already take these medications to suppress their overactive immune systems, even without transplant. So avoiding infections and protecting themselves from exposure to common viruses and colds is something people with lupus should already know how to deal with.
Read a letter from the lupus community, Dear Selena Gomez, Sharing Your Struggles Has Given Us Strength