A flare-up, often referred to as a “flare,” is a sudden, severe onset of symptoms. As example, you’ve been managing well, your symptoms have lessened and, having momentarily forgotten the pain and dryness, you’ve been living ‘full out’ as you used to. Then, suddenly, those angry symptoms are back!
Several points are worth keeping in mind. First, the symptoms of flares are usually very similar to the symptoms you had when your disease began. If a headache signaled the beginning of your disorder before, the recurrence of a headache may indicate the beginning of a disease flare. If a vague feeling of having flu presaged, you’re going to the doctor when you were diagnosed, and this feeling returns, it is likely to be a flare.
It is for this reason that you must constantly check in and know your body and how it reacts. A certain way of avoiding flares is to write a diary of symptoms whenever you feel them. Linking them to whatever might have triggered them. If, for example, you worked over-long hours, or had an argument with your son’s soccer coach, write it down. In the case of the workload, it will be clear that you need to discuss with your employer your need to arrange your work hours to allow for a rest, and in the case of that soccer blowout, it will be clear that such activities are bad for your health.
Also, this is the time to report to your doctor and talk about new feelings or pains that are unusual. New symptoms may not only indicate a flare, but they may also herald complications of treatment. Treating a flare with attention and care will help you have fewer of them. Step back, take care of yourself, rest more often or make inroads to arranging your workday to allow such things, and you will go a long way towards having fewer occasions of “flare-ups.”
By Nancy Carteron MD, FACR
This article was first printed in the Foundation's patient newsletter for members.