Looking Out for Lupus Flares
One of the most frustrating and frightening things about lupus is how unpredictable it can be. Symptoms can come and go, and it's often hard to know when and how lupus will strike. When the disease gets worse and symptoms develop, it's called a flare.
Everyone with lupus has a different experience. No one—not even your doctor—can tell you what will happen. The good news is that there are many things you can control that may help to keep flares from happening.
Follow the Plan: It's important to stick to the prevention and treatment plan created just for you by your rheumatologist. Take medications regularly and carefully and talk to your doctor or pharmacist about which over-the-counter or prescription drugs to avoid because they could cause a flare.
Take Care of Your Self: Outside of the doctor's office and the hospital, you are in control. Get plenty of rest, eat well, don't smoke, and exercise—these are keys to being your healthiest self.
Relax: Stress is a major cause of flares, but having a chronic disease is itself stressful! So take time for yourself. Try de-stressing with yoga and deep breathing exercises. Be sure to not overdo it at work or around the house.
Stay Out of the Sun: Sunblock, hats and sunglasses are crucial! Keep your time under the sun brief, and plan outdoor activities for later in the day.
Note that flares can also be caused by: an infection, injury, surgery, pregnancy or the time right after delivery, suddenly stopping lupus medications, vaccinations, and allergic reactions to skin creams, hair dye and makeup.
Over time, you may get to know your own body so well that you'll know what causes a flare and sense when one is coming on. Some common warning signs are feeling more tired than usual, fever, increased pain, rash, upset stomach, headache, or dizziness. If you sense that something is wrong, call your doctor right away. He or she can often help control the seriousness of a flare.
Preventing flares also helps prevent damage to your body, keeping it strong and better able to fight the disease—which may well mean fewer flares in the future!
I haven't told my employer that I have lupus. I'm afraid that I may have a bad flare and they won't understand it when I need time off of work. What should I do?
It's a personal choice as to whether to tell your employer that you have lupus. One thing is for sure: you cannot be fired if you do tell. While some people choose to keep it a secret, others may find they need to be open and honest with their co-workers and employer about what they're going through.
If you decide to tell your supervisors about your lupus, be clear that you are not asking them for special treatment. Help them understand that you live with a difficult and uncertain disease and that you hope to have their support if it flares and gets worse.
The Cooperatives can help you educate an employer about lupus and give you information on your rights in the workplace.