This week, Toni Braxton sent a dire warning to individuals who may be behind on their required lupus exams– “get those screenings.” During an exclusive interview with People, the “Un-Break My Heart” crooner revealed that she was rushed into a “traumatic” heart surgery procedure in 2022 after doctors discovered that 80 percent of her left main artery was blocked due to complications from systemic lupus erythematosus or SLE, a common form of lupus.
Braxton’s heart condition almost turned fatal
Braxton, 55, was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease in 2008, according to MADAMENOIRE. The Maryland native must take routine blood and urine tests to monitor how the autoimmune disease affects her organs and vitals, but last year, the singer fell behind on some of her regular screenings.
“I kept putting it off thinking, ‘Oh, I’m fine. I’ll be okay.’ But my doctor was persistent, and I went to get tested in the last week of September. I did a specialized test, and they looked at my heart and saw some abnormalities,” the seven-time Grammy Award winner revealed.
Thankfully, doctors were able to use a stent, or special tube, to open up the R&B titan’s left art artery. She recovered after a brief hospital stay.
Braxton said that if she hadn’t come in sooner for her routine screening, she “could’ve had a massive heart attack.”
“I would not have survived,” the “Breathe Again” hitmaker said. “It was a traumatic moment for me. I was in shock. I remember that day because my chest was aching often, just hurting. And I thought I was just sad because, unfortunately, my sister [Traci Braxton] had just passed, and I thought, ‘Wow, I’m really aching in my heart for my sister.’ And come to find out, of course, I was sad about my sister, but I also had underlying health issues. It was my body talking to me, telling me something’s not quite right.”
What is SLE?
Lupus, also known as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), is a chronic autoimmune disease that can affect various organs and tissues in the body.
In lupus, the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells and tissues, causing inflammation and damage. This can lead to a range of symptoms, including joint pain and stiffness, skin rashes, fatigue and sores. If left untreated, the condition can turn fatal.
Lupus can affect anyone, but it is more common in women, particularly those of childbearing age. The exact cause of lupus is unknown, but genetic, environmental and hormonal factors are thought to play a role in its development. Sunlight, stress and certain medications can trigger the disorder.
In addition to SLE, there are two other common forms of lupus. Cutaneous (Discoid) lupus, which affects only the skin and shows up as a rash, usually on the face, neck and scalp, and drug-induced lupus, which is caused by taking certain types of medicines. It is usually not as serious and normally goes away when a person stops taking medication that interferes with their body.
Black women are disproportionately impacted by the disorder
According to Braxton, Black women are four times more likely to develop complications from SLE and are at a greater risk of dying from the disease. The R&B titan urged for individuals who are at risk of developing the autoimmune disease to get tested regularly.
According to the singer, lupus screenings are easy, quick and manageable.
“If all I have to do for my lupus and my kidney health is pee in a cup, I can pee in a cup. How many times do you need me to pee? If all I gotta do is get my arm pricked for some blood? Oh yes, I can do that,” she said.
According to Lupus.org, doctors normally use an ANA test, or a quick blood test to determine if an individual has lupus. It measures activity in the immune system against certain foreign invaders. Around 97 percent of people with lupus test positive for ANA, according to the website.
Is there a cure for lupus?
There is no cure for lupus, but treatments are available to manage symptoms and prevent complications. These may include medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, immunosuppressive drugs and antimalarial drugs, according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.
BLyS-specific inhibitors is a common drug that doctors often prescribe to lupus patients, that limits the amount of abnormal B cells (cells in the immune system that create antibodies) found in people living with the condition. A common type of BLyS-specific inhibitor that treats lupus symptoms, Belimumab, blocks the action of a specific protein in the body that is important in immune response.
To manage flare-ups and other complications, lupus patients are often advised to avoid sunlight and change their diet and lifestyle.
Although the surgery was frightening, Braxton said she’s lucky to be alive and will do better regarding managing her screenings.
“The goal here is long life and old age,” the R&B crooner added.
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