Selena Gomez has been living with lupus, an autoimmune disease, for more than a decade. Over the years, the Only Murders in the Building star, 31, has been candid about her experience with the chronic illness, from undergoing a kidney transplant and chemotherapy to how it’s impacted her mental health.
The “Single Soon” singer has used her public platform to raise awareness and educate her fans about lupus, which causes your body’s immune system to attack your own tissues and organs and can cause painful inflammation and swelling, per the Mayo Clinic. The inflammation can affect many systems throughout the body, including joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart, and even the lungs. While there is no known cure for lupus, there are a variety of treatments patients can undergo, per the Mayo Clinic.
And while Selena may be the first person you think of with this health condition, 1.5 million Americans, and at least five million people worldwide, have a form of lupus, The Lupus Foundation of America estimates.
Ahead, here’s everything Selena has shared about her lupus diagnosis and health journey with the autoimmune disease:
Selena was diagnosed with lupus in 2013.
In her October 2015 cover story with Billboard, Selena first revealed her lupus diagnosis. “I was diagnosed with lupus, and I’ve been through chemotherapy. That’s what my break was really about. I could’ve had a stroke,” she told the publication of her time spent out of the spotlight (which sparked rumors about her being admitted to a rehabilitation facility for addiction). “I wanted so badly to say, ‘You guys have no idea. I’m in chemotherapy… I locked myself away until I was confident and comfortable again.”
A year later, in April 2016, Selena further opened up about this difficult time in her life during a cover story interview with GQ, which stated that she’d been diagnosed in 2013. “I got diagnosed with lupus. My mom had a very public miscarriage. So I had to cancel my tour. I needed time to just be okay,” she told the magazine.
She went to a rehabilitation facility for chemotherapy.
After her lupus diagnosis, the “Lose You To Love Me” singer went to Meadows, an Arizona rehab facility, to receive chemotherapy treatments, according to GQ. At the time, her lupus diagnosis was not public knowledge, so the online rumor mill exploded with stories claiming the pop star was in rehab for substance abuse.
It was also the first time Selena sought treatment for mental health, according to her 2021 interview with ELLE. “I don’t even know what they really believed I was doing—drugs, alcohol, running around, partying. The narrative was so nasty,” the Spring Breakers star said.
She took to Instagram to take her power back. “I want to claim back my name,” Selena wrote in a caption, at the time, per Elle.“Yes, I went away. Yes, I struggle with mental health. I’ve been depressed, and I’ve had anxiety.”
Selena underwent a kidney transplant in 2017.
That summer, Selena received a kidney transplant from her friend and How I Met Your Father actress Francia Raisa. A few months later, in September, she opened up about the life-saving surgery in a touching Instagram tribute.
“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,” she captioned the post. “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.”
A month later, Selena and Francia sat down with Savannah Guthrie for a joint interview about their kidney transplant experience. “I got to the point where it was really life or death,” Selena said, adding that Francia saved her life.
Selena has also sought therapy for panic attacks and depression related to her health struggles.
The “Calm Down” singer was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2018, she shared with Elle. “I felt a huge weight lifted off me when I found out,” Selena said. “I could take a deep breath and go, ‘Okay, that explains so much.’ ”
She received treatment for the panic attacks and depression she’s faced as a result of her illness, she shared with PEOPLE in 2019. Selena even said that increased anxiety and panic attacks can be symptoms of lupus.
“I’ve had a lot of issues with depression and anxiety, and I’ve been very vocal about it, but it’s not something I feel I’ll ever overcome,” she shared in a 2018 interview with Harper’s Bazaar. “There won’t be a day when I’m like, ‘Here I am in a pretty dress — I won!’ I think it’s a battle I’m gonna have to face for the rest of my life, and I’m OK with that because I know that I’m choosing myself over anything else.”
In 2020, Selena spoke on NPR about how new medication and therapy were helping her to feel more stable. “I’m on the proper medication that I need to be on, even as far as my mental health. I fully believe in just making sure you check in with your doctors or therapist,” she shared. “[Taking care of mental health — ] that’s forever. That’s something I will have to continue to work on. Yes, I don’t think I just magically feel better. I have days where it is hard for me to get out of bed, or I have major anxiety attacks. All of that still happens.”
Selena has talked about how the treatments affect her body.
Selena has undergone multiple lupus treatments, which have taken a toll on her body. She shared that she deals with inflammation and fluctuates with her weight in a TikTok live stream that was reposted on X (formerly Twitter). Selena explained that her lupus medication causes her to hold on to a lot of water weight, which is a normal side effect.
“I just want people to know that you’re beautiful and you’re wonderful,” Selena shared. “Yeah, maybe we have days where we feel like sh*t, but I would much rather be healthy and take care of myself. My medications are important, and I believe they are what helps me.”
Selena Gomez goes live on TikTok to address comments about her body. She talks about her health, medication for lupus and how they affect her body. pic.twitter.com/JL3hIArShB
— Selena Gomez News (@OfficialSGnews) February 16, 2023
In another TikTok, Selena’s hands visibly shook as she did a makeup tutorial. She shared in a comment that this was because of her medication, per E! News.
She’s now proud of her surgery scars.
“When I got my kidney transplant, I remember it being very difficult at first showing my scar,” Selena wrote in an Instagram post, shared in October 2020. “I didn’t want it to be in photos, so I wore things that would cover it up. Now, more than ever, I feel confident in who I am and what I went through…and I’m proud of that.”