Celebrities can seem untouchable due to their elevated status in society, but many famous figures are living with autoimmune disorders just like so many non-famous folks. To be exact, 1 in every 5 Americans is living with an autoimmune disorder, according to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA) — and autoimmune conditions don’t discriminate based on the level of fame an individual has.
A study compiled in 2019 by the AARDA found that “more than 100 autoimmune diseases impact 50 million Americans every day, [and] of those affected, 75% are women.” Johns Hopkins Medicine defines an autoimmune disorder as “when the body’s natural defense system can’t tell the difference between your own cells and foreign cells, causing the body to mistakenly attack normal cells.” Of the known autoimmune disorders, type 1 diabetes, lupus, celiac disease, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, fibromyalgia, and rheumatoid arthritis are some of the most common.
While most autoimmune disorders are chronic, Mount Sinai asserts that they can be managed with treatment, which can include immunosuppressive medicines to decrease the immune system’s abnormal response, supplements to replace what the body is lacking (such as insulin for a diabetic), blood transfusions, and physical therapy.
Venus Williams, who lives with Sjögren’s syndrome, encouraged others who live with chronic illness in a 2019 interview with Prevention. “Don’t be discouraged, because what [you’re] going through is similar to other people,” the tennis icon said. “Talk to those people who understand you or have a similar condition, reach out, and build a [support] team. Don’t isolate yourself. Don’t give up.”
From Selma Blair to Morgan Freeman, read on to learn about celebs who’ve been diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder and how their lives have been impacted by chronic disease.