Lupus patients hope Selena Gomez's announcement increases awareness

Posted at 5:03 PM, Oct 13, 2015
and last updated 2015-10-14 08:54:56-04

Lupus doctors and patients hope Selena Gomez's diagnosis increases awareness about the deadly disease.

The pop singer told Billboard she took a sudden break to undergo chemotherapy and her lupus is now in remission. But, the shocking announcement left fans wanting to learn more about the autoimmune condition. 

"The body sort of senses itself as being foreign and starts to attack it," explained Dr. Susan Boackle, a professor at CU's School of Medicine. 

Boackle says symptoms include fatigue, rashes and joint pain. 

Lupus patient Linda Garrett knows them well. It took her 15 years to get an accurate diagnosis. 

"Since I've been an adult, I was always sicker than anyone else," said Garrett, who works with the support group Lupus Colorado. "If everyone in my office had a cold, I would be in the hospital with pneumonia."

Boackle says women are at higher risk than men, with peak ages between 15 and 40 years old. 

"Ninety percent of people affected are women, and it affects minorities at a higher rate," said Boackle. 

Patients like Garrett hope Selena's celebrity will help raise money for a cure and inspire others to get checked if they, too, suffer mysterious symptoms.

"It's not great news for Selena, but it's great news for our visibility and reaching out to the community because there will be more awareness," said Garrett.

Doctors say lupus patients can live long lives with the help of medicine, but treating the disease early is key.

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