In the last few months, pop star Selena Gomez and actress Kristen Johnston have said they struggle with lupus, bringing new attention to the autoimmune disease.

They join a list of celebrities such as R&B singer Toni Braxton, Nick Cannon, host of “America’s Got Talent” and Seal, who has a form of the disease that caused the infamous scars on his face. Even Lady Gaga claimed she tested “borderline positive” for lupus.

But while people may be familiar with who has it, many do not know what it actually is.

Selena Gomez. Credit: North Shore LIJ

Here are 10 facts you should know about the disease, according to Richard Furie, MD, chief of the Division of Rheumatology for the North Shore-LIJ Health System and director of The Systemic Lupus Erythematosus and Autoimmune Disease Center at North Shore-LIJ Health System, which specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of lupus and related disorders.

  • Lupus causes something to go wrong with the body’s immune system – which is supposed to fight off viruses, bacteria, and germs – causing it to attack healthy tissue and results in inflammation in different organs of the body.
  • Ninety percent of the people who develop lupus are women. Men also can develop lupus and their disease can affect some organs more severely.
  • Lupus can affect anyone, but African Americans, Hispanics/Latinas, Asians and Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans are diagnosed with lupus two or three times more frequently than Caucasians.
  • While lupus most often affects the joints and skin, causing arthritis and rash, respectively, it can affect any organ system of the body, including the heart, kidneys, lungs, blood, and brain.
  • About 80 percent of people with lupus experience fatigue.For some, it can be debilitating.
  • As many as 40 percent of all people with lupus, and as many as two-thirds of all children with lupus, will develop kidney complications.
  • People with lupus are leading healthier lives and living longer today, thanks to researchers who continue to discover more about the immune system.
  • With current treatments, 80 to 90 percent of people with non-organ threatening lupus can look forward to having the same lifespan as people without lupus.
  • Positive interactions between lupus patients and their doctors help to improve satisfaction with treatment and increase feelings of hope and well-being.
  • Many symptoms of lupus imitate those of other illnesses, and can come and go over time, making diagnosis difficult.  Consequently, it may take three to five years or more to diagnose lupus. For this reason, patients should consult with a rheumatologist (a doctor who specializes in lupus).