This week, singer Selena Gomez announced that she is taking a break from music to work on the anxiety and depression brought on by her Lupus diagnosis. Recently, Gomez has become a prominent figure in Lupus awareness, bringing attention to the physical and mental health risks associated with the autoimmune disease.

Lupus is neither contagious nor infectious. According to the Lupus Foundation of America , it is is a chronic, autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body, but most commonly the skin, joints, and/or organs inside the body. In the case of the lupus, the immune system accidentally confuses a healthy body part or organ as a “foreign invader.” As a result, the immune system will attack its own body and destroy perfectly healthy tissue. It often appears in stages of flare ups and long periods of remission.

The true cause of lupus is not completely understood but most doctors believe that develops in response to a combination of factors both inside and outside the body, such as hormones, genetics, and your environment. It’s still unclear if lupus antibodies can be transmitted through blood donations but although, there may be a small theoretical risk of a side effect for the blood recipient, we know for sure that the person receiving blood would not develop lupus.

Although lupus does have the ability to kill, between 80-90 percent of those affected with the disease go on to live a normal lifespan. This is because the disease varies greatly in intensity and degree. Those with mild cases of the condition can often manage their flare-ups with medication and lifestyle changes. Those with more severe lupus are at a greater risk of it becoming life-threatening. In severe cases, lupus can cause the immune system to attack the body’s organs, which can in rare cases cause organ damage or failure, Healthline reported. In addition, lupus patients can also be at increased risk for other health condition that can be deadly. For example, lupus increases your risk of heart disease, kidney failure, infection, and developing blood clots.

Although there is no cure for lupus, many new treatments have proved promising in recent studies. For example, earlier this year a 26-year-old cancer drug was found to be highly effective at balancing the overactive immune system of lupus patients. In addition, a study published this March announced the discovery of a possible biomarker for lupus. The ability to isolate the gene associated with the condition could one day lead the the ability to silence its expression.

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