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Hey Lady Gaga, I Have 'Borderline Lupus' Too!

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Dr. Wendy Walsh: When American pop star Lady Gaga divulged to CNN's Larry King and his millions of viewers that she has "borderline lupus," I scratched my head. I watched my own mother battle the disease for most of her life until her death from breast cancer, and I myself have what's known as a positive ANA (antinuclear antibody test), meaning that I carry the gene.

ladygaga.jpg

So what about Gaga? Does she have lupus, or not? Is there even such a thing as "borderline lupus"? Well, the nature of lupus is such that it is darned hard to diagnose, and doctors depend on a battery of tests (combined with symptomology reports) to make a complete diagnosis. Gaga could have tested positive for some things and not others, which means that technically speaking, she does not have lupus.

The autoimmune disease "systemic lupus erythematosus" (yes, I could rattle that off by the age of 5) is called "lupus" for short. It affects 1.5 million Americans, and 90 percent of sufferers are female. People of African, Latin and Asian origins are more susceptible. Lupus causes the body's immune system to become hyperactive and attack normal, healthy tissue.

Symptoms are many and varied and mimic other diseases. My mother -- who had both the lupus skin disease and the systemic disorder -- loved to giggle over the fact that she always tested positive for syphilis.

The most common symptoms of lupus are:

* Extreme fatigue 
* Headaches
* Painful or swollen joints
* Fever
* Anemia (low numbers of red blood cells or hemoglobin, or low total blood volume)
* Swelling (edema) in feet, legs, hands and/or around the eyes
* Pain in the chest on deep breathing (pleurisy)
* Butterfly-shaped rash across cheeks and nose
* Sun- or light-sensitivity (photosensitivity)
* Hair loss
* Abnormal blood clotting
* Fingers turning white and/or blue when cold (Raynaud's phenomenon)
* Mouth or nose ulcers

One thing doctors do know is that lupus has a hereditary component, and Lady Gaga connects her "borderline lupus" with an aunt who suffered from the illness. In my opinion, Lady Gaga probably has experienced some of the symptoms (what touring rock star doesn't experience extreme fatigue, anemia and headaches?), and she may have a positive ANA like me. That means she carries the gene and has a predisposition to lupus, but does not have the full-blown disease. Let's hope it stays that way.

As for me ... well, let's see. Even with my own "borderline lupus," I have challenged my body during its 40-something years. I have run a triathlon, taught more aerobics classes than I can count, have borne two children and nursed them for a total of six years -- and my body is still full of life! May Lady Gaga be so fortunate.


next: How to Lie to Your Kids Using Spelling
66 comments so far | Post a comment now
Amanda June 5, 2010, 8:55 AM

Her aunt who had lupus is dead. Fact check next time please!

Anonymous June 5, 2010, 9:09 AM

lady gag me

Candy June 5, 2010, 9:29 AM

I believe Lady Gaga said that she tested “borderline positive” for the disease, not that she had “borderline lupus.” By putting borderline lupus in quotes as if she said it herself is to misconstrue what she actually said. Since your article is based around the false quote of Lady Gaga saying she had “borderline lupus,” a lot of the points you try to make in the article are moot.

kathy June 5, 2010, 11:21 AM

Disagree with “moot points” made by previous poster. 1. you can construe a positive ana, with lupus in your family, as borderline lupus. It could also indicate another autoimmune disease as well, unfortunately. So, 6 of 1, half dozen of the other….2. It takes 4 out of the 11 criteria to officially make a diagnosis. That is why so many people KNOW they have it, but the disease presents some ways, then other ways, & the docs can’t quite nail down the criteria at the same time. Some folks been doing this same dance for years, w/o a diagnosis! Lastly, not sure what the “challenging my body” has to do with Lady Gaga at all. Glad for the poster, but I don’t think marathons is Gaga’s thing at all.

katie June 5, 2010, 11:49 AM

Either you have Lupus or you don’t. Same goes for Diabetes, you have it or you don’t. Several doctors have told me that they never use the term “borderline” for any disease.

If Lady Gaga is healthy then she should count her lucky stars. Going for sympathy is never the right thing to do.

bettylion June 5, 2010, 2:11 PM

Gaga is NOT “going for sympathy”. It has been well known for a long while now that her aunt died of lupus. It was leaked that she was getting tested for lupus and then got asked about it repeatedly in interviews by the NY Times and Larry King. What is she supposed to say?

mom with Lupus June 6, 2010, 12:25 AM

Dear Lady Gaga: a Love Letter from a Lupus Patient http://bit.ly/dfRc3Z

Alejandro June 6, 2010, 2:35 AM

I completely agree with the previous poster.

Sam Rogers June 7, 2010, 6:06 AM

Check out this web page from the Alliance for Lupus Research for some clarity on Gaga’s comments and borderline lupus

http://bit.ly/bDSjgb

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