have been living with lupus, you are most likely familiar with the following
scenario: You start feeling worse than normal, perhaps with more aches or
pains, increased fever, or sudden fatigue and you wonder, “Am I getting sick or
is this the start of a flare up?” “And what can I do about it?”
Being in tune with your body, understanding your lupus triggers, tracking your symptoms and asking your physician about advanced lupus activity lab testing can help you understand how to take better control of your flares (yes, there is actually a test that can give insight into flare activity! Learn more below).
flare ups is a common occurrence when you are dealing with lupus, and flares
are often (but not always) characterized by a worsening of symptoms. Flare ups
are typically triggered by something, and over time you will learn what your
triggers are. I was able to notice my triggers more clearly thanks to years of
journaling. Over time, I saw that more than ten minutes in the sun, stress,
crying, getting my period, or getting an infection were contributing factors
for a flare up to begin in my body. Once I noticed these patterns, I was able
to take certain steps to limit these occurrences in my life.
is one of the most common triggers of flare ups, and when I say stress I mean both
bad stress and good stress (known as eustress). Someone experiencing a death in
the family or a divorce, or even someone planning a whirlwind wedding is
experiencing stress, and if they have lupus, that stress may be enough to cause
an increase in their symptoms. Other common flare up triggers might include
surgery, pregnancy, exhaustion, viruses and colds, injuries, or being exposed
to UV rays (both sunlight and fluorescents).
When a flare up does occur, some people will notice certain symptoms returning (that may have been absent for a while), while others may notice an increase in their current symptoms. In some cases, however, a flare up could occur without someone experiencing any symptoms right away.
Top 3 Most Common Lupus Flare Symptoms
the most common symptoms experienced during lupus flares include:
Fatigue – Most people living with lupus will experience some level of fatigue on a regular basis. I’ll use myself as an example of a “regular” day and then a day at the beginning of a flare. On a scale of one to ten, my typical fatigue runs around level four/five. I know I will have a few good hours of energy in the morning and then will require a nap to get through the rest of the day. I also don’t have a lot of stamina. For instance, thirty minutes of yoga will wipe me out for days whereas before I was diagnosed, I could easily make it through an hour and a half class without missing a beat.
when a flare begins, I suddenly begin having crushing fatigue. My fatigue level
will jump to an eight or nine and I will typically have to go back to sleep
after an hour of being awake. To be completely honest, my fatigue can become so
severe during a flare that I can have difficulty getting downstairs to make
food,or having enough energy to get through a shower. For me, fatigue is one of
my prime symptoms that a flare up is beginning to occur, along with fever, which
we will discuss next.
Fevers – Having a low-grade fever is also something a lupus patient typically deals with. I’ve spoken with many people over the years who notice their body temperature always runs higher than normal…just enough to make you feel not so great. But personally, I notice a higher fever (and a fever that just doesn’t go away) when a flare up begins. I know this is my body’s way of telling me there is inflammation going on and that I need to let my body rest.
Pain – Unfortunately, a lot of us
living with lupus already deal with pain on a daily basis to some extent, but
when a flare hits, the pain intensifies. We may also notice that our
maintenance dose of medication isn’t working to combat the pain or that we are beginning
to take increased amounts of medication to try to lessen the pain.
flare up symptoms can include getting a rash or breaking out in mouth or nose
sores. If you are suddenly experiencing any of these symptoms or your current
symptoms have gotten worse, it is time to speak to your doctor. By reviewing
your reported symptoms and combining them with physical observations and blood
test markers, a physician can determine if you are indeed in a lupus flare up.
At this point, your doctor may recommend an increase in medication or the
addition of new medication.
But what happens if you are in a flare and do not know?
be dangerous because there is inflammation occurring in the body and this can
lead to damage over time. Because of this, it is important to see your doctor
regularly and stay on top of having your blood work completed.
you do to proactivity manage your lupus flares?
whether you are experiencing an increase of symptoms or not, there is a newer
blood test specifically made for lupus patients that can determine if there is
an increase in your disease activity.
SLE Monitor test, created by Exagen,
tests for specialized lupus biomarkers including those that are not found in
traditional blood tests. This monitoring test can help your physician determine
what is happening below the surface and may help you detect flares or avoid a
flare altogether. The test will look for unique lupus biomarkers, in addition
to examining the patient’s anti-dsDNA levels and complement levels. Complement
blood levels, known as C3 and C4, are proteins in the blood. When these
proteins are low, it could indicate an increase in lupus disease activity.
So where can you get the AVISE SLE Monitor Test?
you feel like you are experiencing an increase in symptoms or just want to have
your lupus disease activity properly monitored, getting the AVISE
SLE Monitor test
is easy. You can download a letter here and bring it to your next
appointment. From there, your doctor will order the test, and once the blood is
sent to Exagen, your test results will be sent to your doctor within 5 days!
learn more about the AVISE SLE Monitor Test here.
flare ups can happen. Track yours with traditional journaling or by using a
mobile app, and be sure to reach out to your doctor when you are experiencing
an increase in symptoms or to be properly monitored on a regular basis.
better control over our lupus flares can help increase our quality of life and
let us get back to the things that are important to us!