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Lupus 101: Basics-Flare

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A flare in Lupus is as individual and different in each person
as Lupus is individual and different in each person.

What is a flare?

The question has to have a subjective answer.  The lupus patient suffers from joint and muscle pains. The aches and pains in an acute flare of lupus has been described as something like 'flu-like' symptoms. While there may be little swelling to see, unlike some forms of arthritis, not just the joints of a person with lupus are affected by aches and pains but tendons and muscles as well. Inflammation does not usually progress to the point of permanent damage but you “hurt all over”.

 Fever is usually another feature of a flare of the disease. Moreover, it is often difficult to determine if the fever represents an infection or a flare of the disease. Rashes can be another feature of active lupus. Knowing your usual basal temperature can be important because people with lupus do not always have a temperature of 98.6.  What might not be a fever a doctor/nurse would usually look at in a healthy person could be remarkable for a lupus patient.   We have a wide variety of rashes to chose from; there is the sun or photosensitive rash, the butterfly rash across the nose and cheeks, on elbows, palms and soles or the V-neck area or all the above. Our rashes could range from little discolorations, purpura through to blisters. One great thing about most rashes in lupus-they come and go.

Hair loss is another feature of active lupus. The hair re-grows but slowly. I have found keeping an inexpensive but nice hair- piece or wig around the house keeps me from crying when I look in the mirror and I have somewhere to go.

Then there is the HEADACHE and DEPRESSION.  Major features of lupus and a lupus flare. Histories of headaches/migraines go back to our teens for many of us. The return of depression is often a telltale that lupus is flaring.

 We need to be aware of such signs and symptoms as irritation of the eyes, mouth ulcers, chest pain (pleurisy is, for example, important in active lupus), weight loss and ankle swelling. Sometimes they are a sign of active lupus flaring and sometimes they are not.

 Personally, I do not believe there can be an adequate definition of a SLE flare it can be too subjective. What may cause a "flare-up" of the disease in one person does not in another.  I describe a flare as 'I am feeling much worse than usual; the disease is emitting active and warning signs.”

 You need to take a proactive rather than reactive role in your treatment.  You need to be able to talk to your rheumatologist about the changes-little and big you have been experiencing.  Basic tests cannot always show the extent of some disease activity.

Warning Signs of a Flare can exemplify as an  increase of fatigue to activity, pain, rashes, fever, abdominal discomfort, headache and dizziness, dry mouth and eyes(which are not Sjogren’s Syndrome), sores, inflammation, hair loss, loss of energy, loss of the ability to think clearly, forgetfulness or a warning sign for you that may be something not even mentioned.

 Warning signs of a flare can come about simply by eating an unbalanced diet, not drinking enough water, taking a medication incorrectly or too much UV (ultra-violet) or florescent exposure. Flares are as individual as the individual is.

 Generalized, flares are often caused by unprotected exposure to sun light and fluorescent lighting. UV light or light rays often increase reactions which may exemplify as a rashes, mouth and nose sores or the tissue inflammation associated with lupus.

A Dutch researchers reported recently that lupus patients clear ultraviolet (UV)-damaged,“sunburn cells” normally from the dermis but that some lupus patients develop inflammatory lesions.

It is important to use a sunscreen or sun block and avoid peak sunlight hours (usually 10 am to 4 pm) outdoor activities. The use of sunscreens and sun blocks are very important!  A Lupus patient should use ultraviolet sun protection factor of 15 or more, you may need to stock up on sunscreen for the winter months.

Do not forget to check your makeup and lotions for a sunscreen. (all year round)

If the protection you chose causes ANY type of irritation, try a different kind immediately. It would be rather futile to try to prevent rashes by using something that causes a rash!

At times sun exposure between 10 am to 4 pm is unavoidable.

This is when protective clothing and coverings attain the utmost importance.



  • wear a sunscreen
    no matter the season or weather
  • wear a covering hat
    to shade you from any direct sun light
  • wear clothing to cover
    the arms, legs and chest
  • wear sunglasses
    to protect the eyes.

Lupus should not affect where you live. You can live in a very sunny climate or a partly cloudy one; as long as you protect yourself. Cover up but don't court heat stroke!

  • Learn to recognize your warning signals.
  • Eat a balanced diet and exercise.
  • Take all your medication as prescribed.
  • Maintain good communication with your doctor.




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