4 Triggers and Solutions for Lupus Flare-Ups

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When you have lupus, you go through times when you feel sick and other times when you feel better. That’s because lupus is an intermittent disease of flares where symptoms, such as painful or swollen joints, headaches, and fatigue, worsen and improve over and over again.

Fortunately, flares don’t always occur randomly. In fact, you may be able to identify certain triggers that cause flare-ups, such as stress or exhaustion, and warning signs that one is about to occur, such as dizziness, skin rashes, or fever. This will enable you to avoid certain triggers and work with your doctor to short-circuit flares early on, or at least make symptoms less severe. And when flares do happen, there are steps you can take to feel better again.

Know Your Triggers

With lupus, things in everyday life that may be harmless for some people can, unfortunately, cause symptoms for you. Simply being aware of these common triggers and doing what you can to dodge them may keep flares at bay.

Trigger # 1: Stress

Solution: Exercise regularly—it can help take the edge off. With activities such as walking, yoga, swimming, bicycling, low-impact aerobics, or using an elliptical machine, you’ll get the benefits of exercise without irritating inflamed joints.

Trigger # 2: Ultraviolet rays from the sun

Solution: If you’re going to be outside, cover your skin with a sunscreen containing a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or above that blocks both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Limit outdoor activities when sunlight is most intense (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).

Trigger # 3: Ultraviolet rays from indoor fluorescent lighting

Solution: Cover fluorescent light bulbs with light shields that have nanometer readings of 380 to 400. They will filter out harmful rays that can affect sensitive skin. When you don’t have control over the lighting, try wearing a wide-brimmed hat to protect your skin. It may not be your favorite fashion statement, but it can help you avoid flares.

Trigger # 4: Exhaustion

Solution: Get at least seven hours of sleep per night. Taking a nap during a flare may make you feel better.

Staving Off a Flare

One of the very best things you can do when it comes to controlling symptoms and preventing a flare is develop a close relationship with your doctor. When you receive ongoing medical care instead of seeking help only when symptoms take a turn for the worse, you and your doctor will have a better shot at detecting and treating flares early, which is often more effective than waiting until they fully set in.

Below is a list of common warning signs that occur before a flare. If you tend to experience any of them before symptoms arrive, notify your doctor next time they occur. With medications, you may be able to prevent or reduce the intensity of the flare.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 Apr 27

  1. Handout on Health: Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. National Institutes of Health. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Lupus/default.asp#Lupus_4

  2. How can a person tell if lupus is active? Lupus Foundation of America. http://www.lupus.org/answers/entry/how-can-a-person-tell-if-lupus-is-active

  3. What are common triggers for a lupus flare? Lupus Foundation of America. http://www.lupus.org/answers/entry/what-are-common-triggers-for-a-lupus-flare

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