Why Did Selena Gomez Have Surgery? How Lupus Causes Kidney Damage

By now it’s no secret that Selena Gomez received a kidney transplant this summer. The star made the announcement early this morning on her Instagram, saying, “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.”

In 2015, Gomez revealed she suffered from the autoimmune disorder and received chemotherapy treatments to manage the condition, Today reports.

In today’s Instagram post, Gomez explains that “lupus continues to be very misunderstood but progress is being made,” and urges fans to learn more.

Although much more research is needed to be done about the disease, doctors know quite a bit about how lupus impacts the kidneys. Extensive research has been done on how the autoimmune disease takes a toll on this vital organ, as roughly half of patients will be impacted. As John Hopkins Medicine explains, the most affected area is the glomerulus. This area of the kidney basically consists of a group of capillaries that helps filter out waste from the blood to prevent inflammation.

When inflammation does occur, the condition is known as lupus nephritis, according to the Lupus Foundation of America. As the glomerulus fails to properly remove waste, some individuals will experience kidney scarring and damage, and in more severe cases, end-stage renal disease. At this point, patients with ESRD will need dialysis to filter out waste or receive a kidney transplant to have at least one working optimally.

The foundation states that most people who have lupus nephritis develop the condition within five years of showing symptoms of lupus. Typically, people between the ages of 20 and 40 will be affected, though they will likely be unaware of the problem. It’s not uncommon for people with lupus to suffer kidney damage before they have been diagnosed with the condition. 

Beginning signs of lupus nephritis include weight gain and puffy feet, ankles, legs, hands. Abnormal urine (can be foamy or red in color) is another warning sign.

However, not all lupus-related kidney problems are due to this severe condition. Urinary tract infections and inflammation to the bladder lining can have less drastic complications. Kidney damage from medications used to treat lupus can cause signs of kidney disease that are mistaken for lupus nephritis. To learn more about lupus, Gomez advises fans in her post to visit the Lupus Research Alliance website

In response, the organization thanked Gomez for her support and wished the singer and actress well.