When Flares Happen
Recently, Julia Brucculieri at the Huffington shared the news regarding Toni Braxton’s hospitalization due to lupus.
This news serves as a reminder that lupus is a chronic autoimmune disorder characterized by unpredictable disease flares (the symptoms worsen and you feel ill) and remissions (the symptoms improve and you feel better).
It is important for those affected and their friends, families and support network to understand how flares are triggered to help prevent and minimize the severity of flares, as well as be prepared when lupus flares occur.
What can trigger a lupus flare?
Emotional stress, such as a divorce, death in the family, or other life complications, and anything that causes stress to the body, such as surgery, physical harm, pregnancy, or giving birth, are examples of triggers that can set off lupus or bring about a lupus flare. While a person’s genes may increase the chance that he or she will develop lupus, it takes some kind of external trigger to set off the illness or to bring on a flare. Other known triggers can include infections, colds or viral illnesses, exhaustion, severe exposure to ultraviolet rays, or an injury.
What happens in the body during a lupus flare?
In lupus, something goes wrong with the immune system, which is the part of the body that fights off viruses, bacteria, and germs (“foreign invaders,” like the flu). Normally our immune systems produce proteins called antibodies that protect the body from these invaders. Autoimmune means your immune system cannot tell the difference between these foreign invaders and your body’s healthy tissues and creates autoantibodies that attack and destroy healthy tissue. ("Auto" means "self"). These autoantibodies cause inflammation, pain, and damage in various parts of the body.
When a lupus flare occurs, many people will notice a return of symptoms or an increase in symptom severity. However, some people may also develop new symptoms. Common symptoms that indicate a flare include ongoing fever not due to an infection, painful or swollen joints, fatigue, rashes or sores or ulcers in the mouth or nose. Some flares happen without symptoms. This is why it is important to see a trained lupus doctor who regularly monitors your health.