8 Celebrities You Didn’t Know Have Serious Illnesses

Celebrities seem to have it all: money, fame and beauty. But, at the end of the day, they’re just like the rest of us in that they’re not immune to illness. The following celebrities have been diagnosed with serious illnesses — but despite their compromised health, have managed to continue living their lives productively.

Toni Braxton

Grammy-award winning singer Toni Braxton was at the top of the music charts in the 1990s and early 2000s. Her singles “Unbreak my Heart” and “He Wasn’t Man Enough” will always remain classic R&B hits. Though the singer experienced massive success, her life was not without its troubles. In fact, Braxton had not one, but multiple health issues.

In 2003, Braxton passed out during a Broadway performance of Aida. At the hospital, doctors diagnosed her with pericarditis, a serious heart condition associated with the pericardium. This is a thin membrane which envelops the heart, but in people with pericarditis, this membrane becomes swollen, causing chest pain and reducing the heart’s ability to pump blood.

DFree / Shutterstock.com
DFree / Shutterstock.com

 

Thankfully, after taking medications for a year, Braxton recovered. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of her health problems. In 2010 Braxton, like other celebrities after her, revealed that she was also diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Though she’s openly stated that life with lupus is like having the flu every day, the courageous singer hasn’t let her condition stop her from doing the things she loves.

Nick Jonas

It may come as a surprise that Nick Jonas, former member of the massive pop group the Jonas Brothers who has since made a name for himself as a solo artist, was diagnosed with diabetes at age 13.

Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) is an often misunderstood illness. It is not caused by consuming too much sugar, but rather has a large genetic component. It occurs when the pancreas produces little or no insulin. This causes trouble since insulin is needed to allow glucose (sugar) to enter cells to produce energy. The result of the lack of insulin is high blood sugar and tissues that essentially starve. Though there is currently no cure, Type 1 Diabetes is often treated with insulin, either through injections or pumps.

Nick decided to see a doctor after experiencing some of the common symptoms of diabetes such as weight loss (since the body begins to use fat for energy), going to the bathroom frequently (to get rid of all that sugar) and being thirsty (to make up for fluids lost from going to the bathroom). He uses insulin pumps to manage his diabetes and seems to be doing well these days. Jonas donates to numerous charities supporting research for diabetes and is a role model for children with diabetes.

Tinseltown / Shutterstock.com
Tinseltown / Shutterstock.com

Magic Johnson 

It takes courage to publicly announce that you’re HIV-positive. Actor Charlie Sheen did so in 2015, after hiding his HIV status for 4 years, but long before him, NBA superstar Magic Johnson also came out. In November 1991, Johnson shocked the public when he retired from the Los Angeles Lakers, announcing that he has Human Immunodeficiency Virus (or HIV), the virus that causes Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

HIV is a life-threatening virus if left untreated. The virus attacks the body’s main line of defense, the CD4 T-cells. It makes use of an enzyme called reverse transcriptase to reverse its genetic material (HIV RNA) into viral DNA, allowing it to enter and integrate its DNA into that of the CD4 cell. HIV then replicates and makes use of the enzyme protease to cleave long strands of protein into infectious HIV virions. When the number of CD4 cells falls below a certain number, AIDS develops. The syndrome can cause symptoms such as rapid weight loss, extreme tiredness and susceptibility to other infections.

It has now been over 20 years, and Johnson is still going strong despite his diagnosis.  How has Johnson survived for so long? In part, early detection plays a key role in his survival and also the use of anti-retroviral therapy, which prevents HIV from progressing into AIDS. Specifically, Johnson takes drugs that inhibit reverse transcriptase and protease. He is now an HIV activist and founder of the Magic Johnson Foundation, which promotes safe sex and testing for HIV.

Debby Wong / Shutterstock.com
Debby Wong / Shutterstock.com
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