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Flare Triggers and Lupus

Posted on May 07, 2019


As with every aspect of lupus, each person’s flare triggers are unique. It can take time for people with lupus to fully understand their flare triggers.

“At first, identifying my flare triggers was difficult. I still have some difficulty,” one member shared.

“I believe my pain is the most severe when I have physical stress like surgery or injury. It took me a number of years to make that connection,” another member wrote.

As the member above noted, noticing patterns over time is important for identifying triggers. “You will see what doesn’t work for you,” a member advised a new person on MyLupusTeam. “Lupus can be so different for each person. Take it slow and get to know the new you.”

For those who are still trying to recognize their triggers, it can be helpful to understand common triggers for others with lupus. Stress, food, hormone changes, and weather top the list of flare triggers on MyLupusTeam.

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Stress

Stress is one of the most common and most challenging flare triggers for members of MyLupusTeam.

Sometimes the stress is emotional: “I've spent the afternoon sobbing and I can feel a flare coming on from the stress.” Other times it’s work-related: “I started a new job this week and stress from the learning curve has triggered a flare.”

Watch rheumatologist Dr. Ashira Blazer explain the connection between stress and lupus flares.

Anxiety about stress itself can be a problem for some members. “I know stress causes flare-ups but then I stress about not stressing,” one member commented.

No matter the cause, it’s important to identify strategies to relieve stress. Learn more about effective ways MyLupusTeam members manage stress.

Food

Medical professionals advise that people with lupus avoid garlic and alfalfa sprouts, and otherwise maintain a balanced diet. However, some members of MyLupusTeam find that certain foods, especially fast food, sugar, dairy, and gluten trigger their symptoms.

Hormone Changes

About 90 percent of those with lupus are women, and most develop the condition during their reproductive years. Hormone changes related to menstruation, menopause, or pregnancy can be major flare triggers but aren’t always well understood. Members have asked “Can my period cause a flare-up?” or “Does anyone get flares around their period?” The answer for some members is a resounding “yes.”

One member commented, “I flare every month with my cycle!” Another member added, “I experience it most months, though in varying degrees. It's most intense for me the week before.”

Flares can become more severe during menopause. One member wrote, “Hormone shifts seem to trigger flares. It got really crazy when I started going through menopause.”

Weather and Sun

Weather and sun exposure can trigger flares for some members. “The weather is changing. I find this has a major impact on me,” one member wrote.

Flares triggered by weather or sun exposure can be especially frustrating if the best solution is to avoid the elements. One member shared, “To me, our hot Texas summers are the worst. I had to stop showing real estate properties because of the heat and extremely painful flares.”

Another member shared, “I've had the absolute worst flare of my life this week. This whole flare was triggered by sun exposure. That is so depressing to me.”

Some members are able to manage weather-induced flares with medication: “I had a slight flare a few weeks ago when the weather first changed. I am learning some of my flare triggers which allows me to take medicine to try to head off the flares.”

Other Triggers

Members of MyLupusTeam have also identified, surgery, infections, the common cold, other illnesses, flu shots, and cigarette smoke as flare triggers.

On MyLupusTeam, the social network and online support group for those living with lupus, members talk about a range of personal experiences and struggles. Flare triggers are one of the most discussed topics.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.

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