What is a Lupus Flare?

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  • Written By: Jamey M. Bradbury
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 13 September 2019
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Lupus is a chronic, inflammatory auto-immune disease characterized in part by "flares"—periods of time when lupus symptoms grow worse or increase. While the number and frequency of flares varies from person to person, an individual can experience between three and six lupus flares a year, on average. Flares can be signaled by such symptoms as fatigue, dizziness or increased pain, and they can be triggered by stress, a change in medications or even exposure to sunlight. Though flares are a normal part of having lupus, it's possible for a person to prevent them by paying attention to the things that trigger them.

The symptoms of lupus aren't always present; they come and go, and in some cases, a person can go years without experiencing any symptoms. The period of time during which symptoms are gone is called "remission" or "quiescence." When symptoms are about to "flare," or become active, there are often warning signs. An individual can learn to recognize the signals that a lupus flare is coming on by looking for pre-flare indicators.


Prior to a lupus flare, a person may feel more tired than usual, feverish, or dizzy. He may also experience increased pain, have a stomach ache or rash, or develop symptoms he has never had before. These warning signs of an oncoming flare are different from the symptoms of lupus, which include swollen or painful joints, muscle ache, hair loss, fatigue and sun sensitivity. A person with lupus may also develop a "butterfly" rash across his nose and cheeks, and may have trouble remembering or concentrating. The intensity of these symptoms can vary; a lupus flare may be mild, moderate or severe.

Lupus flares can be triggered by physical or emotional stress, infection, new medications, or by exposure to ultraviolet light. It is also common for women with lupus to experience flares during or immediately after pregnancy. Although flares are consider "normal" in people with lupus, they can still be dangerous because severe flares can result in kidney failure or fluid collection around the heart. While an individual should expect to experience lupus flares on occasion, the good news is that flares can be prevented.

To avoid lupus flares, a person can learn to recognize his unique set of pre-flare warnings signs. Additionally, he can make efforts to get enough sleep, limit the stress in his life, and maintain a healthy diet. Getting exercise and regularly seeing a doctor can also be important factors in preventing a lupus flare; an individual should consider seeing his doctor especially when starting any new medication, including over-the-counter drugs. Avoiding exposure to sunlight, halogen lights, and fluorescent lights may also help avert a flare.


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Post 3

@donasmrs-- You can help shorten the duration of flare-ups by getting plenty of rest, eating well, taking your medications and staying away from stress. I believe that stress is a major trigger for lupus.

Also, if you have cutaneous lupus, make sure that you stay away from sunlight and heat. I know from myself that sunlight triggers rashes on my face and body. So I'm very careful about this. I use lots of sunscreen, wear long clothes, hats and sunglasses. If you were prescribed a corticosteroid medication, make sure that you take it. It takes some time to work for me but it's effective.

Post 2

@donasmrs-- Unfortunately, no one can answer this because the duration of lupus flare-ups varies for each person. It can even vary for one individual.

I've had flare-ups that only lasted a few weeks and I've had flare-ups that lasted for years. So they're very unpredictable. I think that there are individuals with lupus who experience symptoms all the time. A flare-up for them is when the symptoms worsen. So the definition of a lupus flare-up is not constant for everyone. The best thing you can do is see your doctor and use the recommended treatments to try and control the symptoms.

Post 1

What is the average lupus flare duration? And is there anything that can be done to shorten the duration?

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