Ranging from staying away from the sun, exercising regularly, avoiding stress and eating a healthy diet coupled with lifestyle changes are way some ways to reduce your risk of lupus flare.
Lupus seem to wax and wane, with periods of no symptoms accompanied by a flare.
A few of the things that can trigger a lupus flare include sunlight, infections, and stress.
Your body may show some clues that a flare is about to occur, including fatigue, rash, fever, headache, sores in your mouth, or muscle pain.
One hard thing about living with systemic lupus is coping with unpredictability; if you have lupus, you will go through times when your disease seems to be gone and periods when it’s active and symptoms worsen.
These periods of feeling worse are known as lupus flares. Even though there is no way you or your doctor can fully predict or prevent a lupus flare, you can identify and try to avoid known triggers to reduce your risk for flares.
Making the right lifestyle changes can also help reduce your risk for a lupus flare.
“Few of the known triggers in systemic lupus are sunlight, infections, and stress,” says Amita Bishnoi, MD, a rheumatologist at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. Other common triggers include being overtired, starting or stopping medications, becoming pregnant, or undergoing any physical stress, such as surgery or an injury.
Lupus Flares and Lifestyle Changes
“The favourable thing you can do is live a healthy lifestyle,” says Ellen Ginzler, MD, a professor of medicine and chief of rheumatology at State University of New York Downstate Medical Center in New York City. “Stay active, eat a healthy diet, stay out of the sun, and don’t smoke.”
Some other things you can do include:
- Get plenty of rest. Manage your schedule to avoid becoming overtired or overworked.
- Watch out for stress. Some stress is unavoidable, and having a chronic disease is stressful by itself, but it’s important for people with lupus to avoid putting themselves in stressful situations when possible. Learn some techniques that help you manage your stress. Meditation is an excellent way to reduce stress and decrease your risk for a lupus flare.
- Visit your doctor regularly. To maintain your health, make sure you stick to scheduled doctor visits and let your doctor know if symptoms seem to be getting worse.
- Avoid physical stress. Regular exercise is a great way to stay strong and fit. If you need to undergo a procedure that will require recuperation time, schedule it when your lupus is not active. It’s best to wait to get pregnant until your doctor clears you for it, for the same reason.
- Avoid sunlight whenever possible. If you have to be in the sun, use a sunscreen with a high sun protection factor (like SPF 70) and wear protective clothing. Make sure your sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Remember that halogen and fluorescent lights also give off ultraviolet light, so avoid prolonged exposure to them as well.
- Be careful with certain foods and supplements. Avoid alfalfa sprouts, which contain a substance that may increase inflammation and trigger a flare. Some people may have a similar reaction to garlic, which is sometimes used as a health supplement. Other supplements that have been linked to lupus flares include melatonin, often used as a sleep aid, and echinacea, used to fight colds.
- Take your medications as prescribed. Never start or stop a medication without checking with your doctor first. Many medications, including some over-the-counter drugs, can trigger lupus flares. Some antibiotics in the sulfa family, for instance, increase sun sensitivity and may increase your risk for a flare. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking any new medication, supplement, or herbal treatment.
What Should You Do If You Sense a Lupus Flare Coming On?
A number of people with lupus eventually become accustomed to their body’s rhythms enough to sense when a possible flare is coming. At these times you can rest and use stress management techniques, but once actual symptoms of a flare begin, you shouldn’t try to handle it on your own. Some common flare symptoms include:
- Increased fatigue
- New or worsening rash
- Joint and muscle pain
- Headache or dizziness
- Sores or ulcers in the mouth
- Swelling in the legs
- Any new symptoms
When you think a flare is starting, it’s best to see your doctor as soon as possible.
The best way to control lupus and avoid flares is to know as much about your disease as you can and to follow these simple guidelines: Listen to your body, learn what your own triggers and early warning signs are, stick to your lupus treatment plan, and take good care of yourself.