When Mariah Carey's husband, Nick Cannon, revealed that he was battling an autoimmune disease that was damaging his kidneys, it came as a shock to everyone. The young entertainer, who began his career as a teenager on the hit Nickelodeon sketch comedy show All That and later The Nick Cannon Show, candidly reported that he was diagnosed with lupus in January. By February, he revealed he had blood clots covering his lungs and severe inflammation to his kidneys. (Image courtesy of Wikimedia)
Now, this isn't a rare disease . . . even one might think so based on the small amount of “coverage” it usually gets. In fact, it is estimated that over 3 million people have one of the five types of lupus.
So, can we thank Nick Cannon for bringing more awareness to this often understated or misunderstood disease? In this case, by coming forward with his struggles, Nick has used his celebrity powers for good and not evil.
So what exactly is an autoimmune disease? If you think it's what AIDS or HIV is, you're wrong. Both AIDS and HIV are immunodeficiency diseases, which means that the immune system is either very weak or basically non-existent because it has been mostly killed off by the invading disease. This leaves you susceptible to even the smallest infections that wouldn't otherwise faze a healthy person, and one infection or illness can quickly snowball into a dangerous disaster.
On the other side of the coin, autoimmune diseases occur when your immune system actually attacks itself, and targets your tissues as well as your organs. In short, having an autoimmune disease basically means that your body is tricked into thinking that it is one giant disease and is trying to kill itself. Cancer is a form of an autoimmune disease, because it occurs when cells that belong in your body suddenly begin multiplying uncontrollably, and interrupts the rest of your body's systems.
Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that usually targets your joints, kidneys, blood cells, skin, lungs, and even your heart. It can be difficult to diagnose early onset of lupus, which is why most patients who discover that they have lupus are into the more advanced stages of the disease. The tell-tale sign that most (but not all) patients with lupus though, is a facial rash that appears on each cheek and looks just like the wings of a butterfly. The symptoms can be vague, and are often mistaken for other ailments. These symptoms include constant fatigue, high fevers, joint pain and stiffness, shortness of breath, chest pain, confusion, memory loss, and very dry eyes.
It is not entirely certain how lupus is triggered, though several instances have been triggered by sunlight awakening the dormant disease or certain medications not mixing well. Lupus is usually diagnosed in people aged 15 to 40, and usually occurs in females. Only 1 in 10 males are at risk of developing lupus, so Nick Cannon's case is especially intriguing because of its rarity. African Americans , Hispanics, and Asians of either gender are three times more at risk than any other race though, so this might explain why Cannon developed it.
Even in the most severe cases of lupus, treatment through medication and holistic approaches can help to curb the damage, and allow the patient to live a relatively normal life. If the lupus is found to be too advanced, a kidney transplant may be required. And, because of the nature of this autoimmune disease, it can also mean an increased risk of cancer.
Some alternative treatments that have been shown to be helpful are:
- A diet comprised of plenty of Omega-3s
If lupus goes untreated or unnoticed, it can lead to serious kidney damage, strokes, nausea, and a significantly higher risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular diseases.
But have no fear, Cannon fans! Nick is well on his way to recovery after closely following his doctor's medications and advice; and most people with lupus will find themselves able to treat it and keep it under control without further incidents.