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What Disease Does Selena Gomez Have? She's Been Vocal About Her Lupus Battle

The Only Murders in the Building star was also diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Selena Gomez is known for her Disney Channel days, hit songs including "Calm Down" and "Same Old Love," and her current starring role in the hit mystery-comedy Only Murders in the Building, among other things, but the 31-year-old superstar is also perhaps the most famous person to have lupus. For over a decade now, the multi-hyphenate star has been living with the autoimmune disease and sharing her experience with it publicly. Read on to learn more about the disease lupus and how it has impacted Gomez.

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What is lupus?

woman holding the joint of her middle finger, which glows red to indicate pain
Orawan Pattarawimonchai / Shutterstock

As the Lupus Foundation of America explains, lupus is a chronic disease that causes one's immune system to attack healthy tissue instead of just fending off infections. This can lead to painful inflammation. Although it is rarely fatal, lupus can massively impact one's life, and there is no cure, though there are various treatments.

Anybody can get lupus, though it is not known precisely what causes it, and it is not contagious. The disease overwhelmingly affects women—nine out of 10 patients are female. There are different types of lupus.

Lupus can manifest in a variety of symptoms, per the Mayo Clinic. They include joint pain, fever, skin lesions, chest pain, shortness of breath, a "butterfly-shaped rash on the face that covers the cheeks and bridge of the nose or rashes elsewhere on the body," and fatigue, among others.

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When was Selena Gomez diagnosed with lupus?

Selena Gomez in 2014
Karwai Tang/FilmMagic

Gomez was diagnosed with lupus in 2014. She publicly revealed the diagnosis a year later, in a 2015 Billboard cover story. The announcement came after she had taken a break from the spotlight as a result of her illness and checked into a rehab facility in Arizona in 2014. As detailed in a GQ story, because her lupus diagnosis was not yet public, people assumed she was being was being treated for substance use disorder when in reality she was undergoing chemotherapy. While obviously being much more associated with cancer, chemotherapy can also be used to treat lupus.

"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," Gomez told Billboard. "I wanted so badly to say, 'You guys have no idea. I'm in chemotherapy. You're [expletive].' I locked myself away until I was confident and comfortable again."

What kind of treatment is she receiving?

Selena Gomez in 2022

In addition to chemotherapy, Gomez also underwent a kidney transplant as part of her lupus treatment.

Lupus nephritis occurs when lupus impacts one's kidneys, "making them less able to properly remove waste from the blood or control the amount of fluids in the body," per the Lupus Foundation of America. Luckily, Gomez's close friend and fellow actor Francia Raisa (Grown-ish, How I Met Your Father) was a match. The operation took place in the summer of 2017.

"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," Gomez wrote in an Instagram post in September announcing that she'd gotten the transplant. "I honestly look forward to sharing with you, soon my journey through these past several months as I have always wanted to do with you. Until then 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."

The Wizards of Waverly Place star also takes medication to treat her lupus, though she has not specified which drugs she's been prescribed.

What side effects has she experienced?

Selena Gomez in 2017

In 2023, Gomez did a TikTok livestream in which she discussed how her medication causes her weight to fluctuate.

She explained, as reported by People, that she "tend[s] to hold a lot of water weight, and that happens very normally," when she's on the drug. She continued, "When I'm off of it, I tend to lose weight. I just wanted to say and encourage anyone out there who feels any sort of shame for exactly what they're going through, and no one knows the real story."

The actor has called out the media coverage and criticism of her weight with body-positive messages to social media.

Gomez also wrote in the comments section of a TikTok video that her medication sometimes causes her hands to shake.

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How has Selena Gomez's health battle affected her mental health?

Selena Gomez in 2024
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

In recent years, Gomez has been forthcoming about her mental health issues, some of which are exacerbated by her lupus. As detailed in a 2021 Elle profile, she began receiving treatment for her mental health in addition to her physical health after she was diagnosed with lupus. In order to combat the narrative that she had gone to rehab for addiction issues, Gomez posted to Instagram.

"Yes, I went away. Yes, I struggle with mental health. I've been depressed, and I've had anxiety," she wrote.

In 2016, after taking a break from acting and music following the conclusion of her Revival World Tour, Gomez told People that lupus contributed to her mental health issues.

"As many of you know, around a year ago I revealed that I have lupus, an illness that can affect people in different ways," she said in a statement. "I've discovered that anxiety, panic attacks and depression can be side effects of lupus, which can present their own challenges."

She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2018, which she told Elle was "a huge weight lifted off [her]" when she found out. Per the Mayo Clinic, bipolar disorder is "a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings that include emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression)."

"I could take a deep breath and go, 'Okay, that explains so much,'" Gomez said.

Speaking to a SXSW panel in 2024, she said she had to "hit rock bottom" before she was able to start dealing with her mental health, as reported by Billboard. Her 2022 documentary My Mind & Me is remarkably revealing and forthright about her struggles, and at SXSW, Gomez said the film was a breakthrough for her.

"The moment I did that, I felt this insane amount of release," she said. "There wasn't any hiding anymore. It was probably one of the hardest moments of my life."

In a 2018 interview with Harper's Bazaar, Gomez said part of the way she deals with her mental illness is to accept that it's not going away.

"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 said. "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 okay with that because I know that I'm choosing myself over anything else."

James Grebey
James has been an entertainment journalist for more than a decade, writing and editing for outlets like Vulture, Inverse, Polygon, TIME, The Daily Beast, SPIN Magazine, Fatherly, and more. Read more
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