Lupus Nephritis and Why Selena Gomez Needed a Kidney Transplant

Early on Thursday (Sep. 14) Selena Gomez announced she had been laying low this summer--something, she admitted, she knew her fans were aware of despite releasing new music, starring on the cover of Vogue and becoming the face of Stuart Vevers Coach campaign--due to needing a kidney transplant.  

Selena Gomez Opens Up About Heading to Rehab for Lupus

"So I found out I needed to get a kidney transplant due to my Lupus and was recovering," Gomez said on Instagram. "It was what I needed to do for my overall health." 

 

I’m very aware some of my fans had noticed I was laying low for part of the summer and questioning why I wasn’t promoting my new music, which I was extremely proud of. So I found out I needed to get a kidney transplant due to my Lupus and was recovering. It was what I needed to do for my overall health. I honestly look forward to sharing with you, soon my journey through these past several months as I have always wanted to do with you. Until then I want to publicly thank my family and incredible team of doctors for everything they have done for me prior to and post-surgery. And finally, there aren’t words to describe how I can possibly thank my beautiful friend Francia Raisa. She gave me the ultimate gift and sacrifice by donating her kidney to me. I am incredibly blessed. I love you so much sis. Lupus continues to be very misunderstood but progress is being made. For more information regarding Lupus please go to the Lupus Research Alliance website: www.lupusresearch.org/ -by grace through faith

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Lupus is a disease that can have many different symptoms, varying from extreme fatigue to joint pain and inflammation, and those symptoms can greatly vary depending on the stage of the condition. "People can have mild or more aggressive symptoms and stages of lupus," Dr. Alana Levine, a rheumatologist in New York City told Billboard. "One of the organs that lupus can affect is the kidneys. It's called lupus nephritis when that happens, which is inflammation of the kidneys." When the kidneys are inflamed, Dr. Levine explained, they're unable to properly filter toxins from the body out through the urine. "As toxins build up, the kidneys might not be able to filter the blood properly, and in severe cases, a patient can become very sick," even going into complete kidney failure if not treated.

What is Lupus? A Primer on Selena Gomez's Condition

"A lot of times, you'll see a slow development of somebody's kidneys not working well," Levine said, who sees her patients every 3 months to do blood work and urine tests, checking to see if blood cells or protein is accumulating in the urine. "If there is accumulation, that's a warning sign. So as a rheumatologist, I'll work with a nephrologist (kidney doctor) to do a kidney biopsy and see if someone has lupus nephritis."

If the patient does have lupus nephritis, the general practice is to give the patient medication and see if they respond. If the patient isn't responding to the medication, that is when the patient's team of doctors will begin discussing the option of a kidney transplant. In Gomez's case, the best option was probably to get a kidney transplant to treat her lupus nephritis and luckily was able to have her friend Francia Raisa donate a kidney. "Donors need to go through rigorous screening before their kidney can be approved," Levine said. "Cancer screenings, infection screenings, multiple blood tests." But once the kidney transplant is approved and the surgery deemed successful, there's very little chance of the kidney becoming infected again.

"Post surgery, every person who gets a kidney transplant will be on medicines daily that suppress the immune system so the body won’t reject the new kidney and think it’s a foreign object," Levine said. "It just so happens that many of those immune suppressants are also used to treat lupus. So when a patient who had lupus nephritis is on immune suppressants, their other lupus symptoms are being treated as well."