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Lupus is Often Hard to Detect

September 11, 2011

Lupus is Often Hard to Detect

Dr. Susan Kiray was diagnosed with lupus in 1999 at age 39.

More than 1.5 million people in the United States have lupus, 90 percent of them women. Dr. Susan Kiray knew the statistics, and in 1999 at age 39, the internal medicine physician was diagnosed with the disease.

Since then, she has become active with the Alliance for Lupus Research. On Saturday, the alliance was scheduled to hold its third-annual fundraising walk at the Michael Carroll Track & Soccer Stadium at IUPUI. In the past two years, the event has raised about $100,000.

Question: How did you learn you had lupus?

Answer: I was fortunate. I was diagnosed quickly. This disease usually has some vague symptoms and takes some time to diagnose. I was at work seeing patients, and I started having pain in my upper extremities and shoulders, a gripping, tearing-type pain. I had had a cold, and I thought sometimes you get joint pain with viral illnesses. Then I started getting pain in my jaw, and it hurt to open and close my mouth. That evening, it hit my leg. Every single joint got inflamed all at once. My husband told me, "Any young woman who has diffuse joint pain, you need to check for lupus." I said, "I'm sure I didn't just develop lupus." One test came back positive, and then a more specific test came back positive.

Q: What came next?

A: I got on treatment right away. There are three levels of treatment. The first is fairly safe. It can cause some problems with vision, so you have to have eye exams every six months. The next level is steroids, which have a lot of potential side effects. I have had a couple of complications from that. It can thin your bones, and about two years ago I had a spontaneous fracture of my leg. The third drug is an immunosuppressant, like a chemotherapy drug. With lupus our immune system gets confused and is hyperactive and your body's immune system starts attacking your own tissues and organs.

These medicines aren't the safest. The alliance is trying to find better, safer treatments. Lupus is a chronic disease, so it has flares and remissions. I can go a week without a flare or have one every day. It's frustrating because you don't know how you're going to feel at any time.

Q: Has it changed your approach to medicine?

A: Any time you go through a disease or experience any problem, then you appreciate more when patients are telling you about chronic pain.


Lupus is Often Hard to Detect

September 11, 2011

Lupus is Often Hard to Detect

Dr. Susan Kiray was diagnosed with lupus in 1999 at age 39.

More than 1.5 million people in the United States have lupus, 90 percent of them women. Dr. Susan Kiray knew the statistics, and in 1999 at age 39, the internal medicine physician was diagnosed with the disease.

Since then, she has become active with the Alliance for Lupus Research. On Saturday, the alliance was scheduled to hold its third-annual fundraising walk at the Michael Carroll Track & Soccer Stadium at IUPUI. In the past two years, the event has raised about $100,000.

Question: How did you learn you had lupus?

Answer: I was fortunate. I was diagnosed quickly. This disease usually has some vague symptoms and takes some time to diagnose. I was at work seeing patients, and I started having pain in my upper extremities and shoulders, a gripping, tearing-type pain. I had had a cold, and I thought sometimes you get joint pain with viral illnesses. Then I started getting pain in my jaw, and it hurt to open and close my mouth. That evening, it hit my leg. Every single joint got inflamed all at once. My husband told me, "Any young woman who has diffuse joint pain, you need to check for lupus." I said, "I'm sure I didn't just develop lupus." One test came back positive, and then a more specific test came back positive.

Q: What came next?

A: I got on treatment right away. There are three levels of treatment. The first is fairly safe. It can cause some problems with vision, so you have to have eye exams every six months. The next level is steroids, which have a lot of potential side effects. I have had a couple of complications from that. It can thin your bones, and about two years ago I had a spontaneous fracture of my leg. The third drug is an immunosuppressant, like a chemotherapy drug. With lupus our immune system gets confused and is hyperactive and your body's immune system starts attacking your own tissues and organs.

These medicines aren't the safest. The alliance is trying to find better, safer treatments. Lupus is a chronic disease, so it has flares and remissions. I can go a week without a flare or have one every day. It's frustrating because you don't know how you're going to feel at any time.

Q: Has it changed your approach to medicine?

A: Any time you go through a disease or experience any problem, then you appreciate more when patients are telling you about chronic pain.



1.5 million

people in the U.S. have Lupus.

100 million

dollars committed to lupus research by the Alliance for Lupus Research.


We're walking across the United States to raise awareness and funds for lupus research.

Can't make it? Join our National Virtual Walk to participate anytime, anywhere.


Show your support by visiting the Alliance for Lupus Research online store. Discover the perfect gift, or prepare for a walk with our selection of apparel and accessories.

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