Black History of Health: Nick Cannon

Nick Cannon has become a staple in the entertainment industry, mainly from a combination of his talent and hard-working attitude. Though he’d been working on achieving his goal of being an entertainer from a young age, he didn’t find the spotlight until the age of 15 when he started working at comedy clubs. 

After that start, he worked steadily toward bigger things landing roles in television shows and movies as well as hosting, writing for television, comedy tours, and pursuing a music career.

Unfortunately, it all came crashing down in January of 2012 when he was hospitalized for having trouble breathing and kidney pain. 

That’s when tests confirmed the news that as many as 1 in 250 African Americans hear annually – Nick Cannon had lupus. To make things worse, he was suffering from lupus nephritis – a specific condition in which the disease has affected the kidneys and can lead to kidney failure.

During an interview with the Lupus Organization, Cannon stated that his life after the diagnosis was a “learning curve” and “I had to be extremely careful, get on the proper diet, get the proper rest, and take care of my body, and I’d be able to fight it.”

What Is Lupus?

Lupus is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks healthy tissues and organs. As a result, the affected areas become inflamed causing pain and other symptoms.

Some of the likely areas to be attacked by lupus are your joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart, and lungs. While there are different types of lupus, the most common is systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), which affects multiple organs or systems in the body. 

Depending on the type of lupus you have, a few of the symptoms you may experience include skin rashes, swelling in the feet or around the eyes, joint pain, headaches, dry eyes, shortness of breath, swelling in the joints, and chronic fatigue. 

What A Lupus Diagnosis Entails

One challenge with diagnosing lupus is that the early signs are easily confused with other illnesses or are ignored altogether. For example, skin rashes can be passed off as an allergic reaction while chronic fatigue may not be taken seriously if you have a busy lifestyle.

In some cases, people don’t seek medical intervention until the disease significantly affects an organ like the kidneys, lungs, heart, or brain.

There’s no one definitive test for lupus and so your doctor will depend on the results from several different tests. You can expect to undergo blood and urine analysis, kidney and liver assessments, an Antinuclear antibody (ANA) test, as well as imaging tests.

In some cases, your doctor might request a biopsy to determine if the disease has damaged any organs. 

How The Disease Is Treated

Once you’ve been diagnosed, there are a variety of medications that your doctor may prescribe. These drugs include corticosteroids for inflammation, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for pain, antimalarial drugs to reduce the likelihood of flares, immunosuppressants to handle your overactive immune system, and biologics to deal with your overall symptoms. 

Along with taking your medication as prescribed, certain lifestyle changes can be helpful. Many people with lupus find that regular exercise, avoiding alcohol, quitting cigarettes, and eating healthily reduce the severity of their symptoms. Before making changes to your diet, remember to talk to your doctor about what’s best for you. 

Lupus is a lifelong illness but as Nick Cannon has noted, “I can live until [I’m] a very old man with this diagnosis as long as I take care of myself.” To live well with lupus, it will be important to stick to your prescribed medical regimen, exercise, eat well, and know when to take a break from stressful situations. 

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