Nick Cannon Diagnosed with “Lupus-Like” Autoimmune Disorder

In January, America’s Got Talent host Nick Cannon, 31, was hospitalized with what was called “mild kidney failure.”

Cannon is now telling People magazine that the cause of that kidney failure was an autoimmune disease, similar to lupus:

They kind of say [my] autoimmune [disease] is – like a lupus type of thing, but no one else in my family has it.

In addition, only a few weeks later, Cannon had a second hospitalization due to blood clots in his lungs . This caused Cannon to step down from his NY-based talk show to concentrate more on his health.

Cannon says he’s  grateful to be alive and plans on spending more time with wife Mariah Carey and their twins, Moroccan and Monroe.

What are Autoimmune Disorders?

An autoimmune disorder is a condition that occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys healthy body tissue. There are more than 80 different types of autoimmune disorders.

Normally the immune system’s white blood cells help protect the body from harmful substances, called antigens. Examples of antigens include bacteria, viruses, toxins, cancer cells, and blood or tissues from another person or species. The immune system produces antibodies that destroy these harmful substances.

In patients with an autoimmune disorder, the immune system can’t tell the difference between healthy body tissue and antigens. The result is an immune response that destroys normal body tissues. This response is similar to the response in allergic conditions.

In allergies, the immune system reacts to an outside substance that it normally would ignore. With autoimmune disorders, the immune system reacts to normal body tissues that it would normally ignore.

What causes the immune system to no longer tell the difference between healthy body tissues and antigens is unknown. One theory is that some microorganisms (such as bacteria or viruses) or drugs may trigger some of these changes, especially in people who have genes that make them more likely to get autoimmune disorders.

An autoimmune disorder may result in:

  • The destruction of one or more types of body tissue
  • Abnormal growth of an organ
  • Changes in organ function

An autoimmune disorder may affect one or more organ or tissue types. Organs and tissues commonly affected by autoimmune disorders include:

  • Blood vessels
  • Connective tissues
  • Endocrine glands such as the thyroid or pancreas
  • Joints
  • Muscles
  • Red blood cells
  • Skin

A person may have more than one autoimmune disorder at the same time.

Examples of autoimmune (or autoimmune-related) disorders include:

What are the Symptoms of Autoimmune Disorders?

Symptoms of an autoimmune disease  will vary based on the disease and location of the abnormal immune response. For example, psoriasis can affect the skin, but also the joints. Lupus can affect the kidneys, lungs, joints and skin.

Some common symptoms of autoimmune diseases include:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • General ill-feeling (malaise)

How are Autoimmune Diseases Treated?

The goal of treatment is to reduce symptoms, and control the autoimmune process while maintaining the body’s ability to fight disease.

Which treatments are used depends on the specific disease and the specific symptoms.

Medicines are often prescribed to control or reduce the immune system’s response. They are called immunosuppressive medicines. Such medicines may include corticosteroids (such as prednisone) and nonsteroid drugs such as azathioprine, cyclophosphamide, mycophenolate, sirolimus, or tacrolimus.

The outcome depends on the disease. Most autoimmune diseases are chronic, but many can be controlled with treatment.


Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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