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Recognizing the Signs of a Lupus Flare

Updated: Apr 18

Lupus, or systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), is an unpredictable autoimmune disease that affects millions of people worldwide.

Living with Lupus is unpredictable: you can experience periods of remission, but may also have lupus flares, which can be challenging to manage.

Understanding the signs of a lupus flare is crucial for timely intervention and effective symptom management.

Here are common signs and symptoms that may indicate a lupus flare:

  • Extreme Fatigue and Weakness

One of the most common and early signs of a lupus flare is sudden and overwhelming fatigue. You may feel exhausted even after ample rest, and simple tasks that were manageable before may become draining. This persistent weakness can impact daily activities and is a signal that the body is facing increased inflammation and immune activity.

women with brown hair and button down shirt sitting at a table with her head in one hand looking tired

  • Joint Pain and Swelling

Lupus often affects the joints, and during a flare, joint pain and swelling may intensify. Affected joints may become red, warm to the touch, and tender. The pain can range from mild discomfort to severe, inhibiting movement and causing considerable discomfort.

  • Skin Rashes and Sensitivity to Sunlight

Skin involvement is common in lupus, and a flare can lead to the emergence or worsening of rashes. The classic "butterfly" rash, which spreads across the cheeks and nose, is a hallmark lupus rash. Additionally, the skin may become more sensitive to sunlight, leading to increased redness and sunburn-like reactions.

  • Fever and Inflammation

A lupus flare may trigger low-grade fever or higher temperatures. Fever is a sign of increased inflammation and immune system activity. Persistent fever during a flare should not be ignored and should prompt medical evaluation.

two hands holding a thermometer

  • Gastrointestinal Disturbances

During a lupus flare, gastrointestinal symptoms can arise, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. These symptoms may be a result of the inflammation affecting the digestive tract.

  • Chest Pain and Breathing Difficulties

In some cases, a lupus flare may affect the lining around the heart or lungs, leading to chest pain, shortness of breath, and difficulty breathing. These symptoms require immediate medical attention.

  • Kidney Problems

Lupus nephritis, a condition where lupus affects the kidneys, is a severe complication. During a flare, individuals may experience changes in urine output, blood in the urine, or swelling in the legs, ankles, or feet, indicating potential kidney involvement.

  • Increased Raynaud's Phenomenon

Raynaud's phenomenon is common in lupus and involves the fingers and toes becoming extremely sensitive to cold, turning white or blue, and then red when warmed. A lupus flare may worsen Raynaud's symptoms.

Recognizing the signs of a lupus flare is crucial for individuals with lupus and their healthcare providers to take prompt action and manage the condition effectively. If caught early enough, you may be able to decrease the severity and duration of a flare. If you or a loved one experience any of the mentioned symptoms or notice a change in the disease's activity, it's essential to communicate with your healthcare team promptly. Remember, managing lupus is a team effort, and having your support system in place can mean all the difference!

If you need more help managing your Lupus flares, or are interested in a clear direction to reduce your symptoms and flares altogether, contact me below:


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