When we suffer from a chronic illness, finding the right treatment makes a big difference in our day-to-day lives. However, most medications, as beneficial as they are, have potential side effects that take getting used to. That’s something to Selena Gomez it has been publicly confronted for years.
The singer suffers lupus, an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation in many parts of the body, including the skin, joints, heart, kidneys, and lungs, among others. This causes a host of symptoms and potential complications, including persistent pain, overwhelming fatigue, rashes, frequent fevers, kidney damage, heart problems, and mental disorders such as depression.
Although her health is nobody’s business, Gomez has spoken openly about her illness and how it affects her physically and emotionally: “My lupus, my kidney transplant, chemotherapy, having a mental illness, going through very public heartbreak… They were all things that, honestly, should have brought me down,” she told Elle in 2021. “But I kept telling myself, you’re going to help people, and that’s what kept me going.”
Stay true to that sentiment. The Rare Beauty founder recently addressed the unsolicited comments she’s been receiving about her body (which, to be clear, is a subject no one should explain). During a live stream On TikTok that was later posted to Twitter, Sel said that he tends to “retain a lot of water weight” when taking certain medications, though he did not specify the type.
“I just wanted to… cheer up anyone out there who feels any kind of shame about exactly what’s going on, and nobody knows the real story,” he said.
What are the consequences of lupus drugs?
He lupus it affects each person differently, so medication regimens are also “highly individualized,” Margo Bowman, PharmD, director of clinical pharmacy services at Corewell Health in Grand Rapids, Mich., tells SELF.
Many people with lupus take hydroxychloroquine, a disease-modifying antirheumatic drug (DMARD), which helps control inflammation and to reduce the risk of flare-ups or periods when the disease is active and causes symptoms, explains Dr. Lynn Ludmer, medical director of the rheumatology department at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, to SELF. “It’s known to increase life expectancy and decrease the risk of brain and kidney diseases,” she says. ‘After that, it depends on the particular type of lupus you have, and the appropriate medication varies from person to person.’
Corticosteroids can also be used short-term to combat inflammation and control symptoms: “These drugs are very important to put out the fire right away,” says Dr. Ludmer. They’re pretty powerful drugs, so experts try to prescribe them at “the lowest dose for the shortest possible time,” she adds.
This is because long-term use of corticosteroids is associated with a number of possible side effectsand many people who take them experience some degree of weight fluctuation, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
For example, prednisone, a commonly prescribed corticosteroid, can alter the distribution of fat in the body, according to the US National Library of Medicine. The reason is not entirely clear, but it may be due to changes in the fluid retention, says Dr. Ludmer. Steroids can also “cause disturbances in the processing” of certain nutrients in the body, Jamie Alan, PhD, PharmD, associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Michigan State University, tells SELF.
Beyond weight changes, the list of possible side effects is quite long. People who take steroids can experience headaches, dizziness, insomnia, mood swings, acne, extreme fatigue, muscle weakness, irregular periods, low libido, heartburn, and much more. And that only in the case of steroids: the drugs for lupuslike DMARDs and other immunosuppressants, have their own side effects.
Gomez has also spoken about other ways the treatment has affected her body. In January she posted a video about her skincare routine on TikTok and responded to a comment about her hand movements: “I’m shaking because of my lupus medication.”
Bottom line: you never know what someone living with a chronic illness is going through
The drugs used for autoimmune diseases such as lupusAlthough necessary, they can take their toll. It is understandably stressful for a person to live with the unpredictable symptoms of their disease and adjust to the changes brought about by their treatment plan, feeling the need to explain all of this to their loved ones, not to mention millions of people on the internet.
Dr. Ludmer stresses that physicians are especially aware of the risks of long-term corticosteroid use: “We rheumatologists try to use as little corticosteroids as possible,” she says. “We prescribe them because we need to control the damage while we try to find other drugs that might help.”
Selena Gomez echoed this point in his live stream: ‘Yes, we do have days where we maybe feel like crap, but I much prefer to be healthy and take care of myself. My meds are important, and I think they’re what help me.’
Article originally published by SELF, self.com, adapted by Paola Zamarripa.