What can we do to prevent or care for flares?

Sometimes we can’t do anything to prevent flares, but when we can, doesn’t doing something to prevent flares make sense?  Here is a list of things that we can and should do to prevent or care for ourselves during flares. My commentary is in red letters after each bulleted point which discusses well-recognized and common-sensical approaches to things that we can do to manage flares:

  • Learn to recognize the warning signals of YOUR flares and tell your doctor about them.‘Knowledge is power’ and the lupus patient who is more-informed about his illness and is a partner with his physician tends to have a better outcome.
  • Be sure to check with the doctor who manages your lupus, (often a rheumatologist) before receiving any immunization. There can be ‘ingredients’ in immunization solutions which cause the immune system to over-react or to which an individual might be allergic. It is our responsibility to know what OUR particular triggers are and to what WE react. This gives patients power.
  • Maintain your physical health. Be sure to visit your doctor regularly, even if you are feeling well. Schedule regular dental, eye, and gynecological exams. This  is one way in which your doctor know that you’re serious about managing your illness, and being a partner with your doctor. 
  • Get enough sleep and rest. Be flexible with your schedule. Pacing your activities allows for more rest. Rest recharges the immune system and allows for more normal functioning and fewer flares.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Only your doctor can make suggestions regarding changes or additions to your diet, but it is generally accepted that all Americans need supplementation at times: Vitamin D3 for bone health and immune system health is just one example, and a good multivitamin is another example.
  • Try to limit your stress. Because this may be hard to do at times, consider developing a plan for dealing with potentially stressful situations. Develop a support system that includes family, friends, medical or nursing professionals, community organizations, and support groups. Remember, it helps to talk to someone when you’re feeling stressed. There are unexpected stressors in our lives that we can’t control. We CAN’T control the boss who has a bad day and ‘takes it out on us.’) What we CAN control is our reaction to our boss-if we allow him to ‘GET TO US!’
  • Participate in a well-planned exercise program to help maintain physical fitness and reduce stress. Exercise has been shown to decrease our stress level and feeling of well-being as well as WELL-BEINGBe careful when trying any over-the-counter preparations used on your skin or scalp. First, determine whether you have a sensitivity or an allergy to it. Put a small amount of the preparation on the inside of your forearm or on the back of your ear. If any redness, rash, raised areas, itching, or pain develops, do not use the preparation. These are new medications and new medications have the potential to trigger a flare.
  • Talk with your doctor before you stop taking any prescribed medications. Starting or stopping medications can be another trigger for a flare. 
  • Limit your exposure to the sun and other sources of ultraviolet light, such as fluorescent or halogen lights. We spoke in the last 2 posts on triggers how exposure to ultraviolet light can trigger a flare.
  • Tell your doctor right away about any injury, illness, or infection or if you do not feel well in any way. Your rheumatologist can’t help you if you aren’t completely honest with him. Doctors can’t be certain what you have tried and succeeded in managing symptoms.
  • Delay elective surgery (including dental surgery and teeth pulling) until your lupus is under control or in remission. Any surgery is a stress on your system and a system that is under stress is more likely to flare.
  • Lupus may cause problems for a pregnant woman and her baby. As a result, women with lupus should carefully plan any pregnancy. Do not stop using your method of birth control until you have discussed the possibility of pregnancy with your doctor and he or she has determined that you are healthy enough to become pregnant. Pregnancy places a stress on your system and pregnancy can have vascular complications.
  • Check with your doctor or nurse before taking any over-the-counter medications. As discussed before, there are over the counter preparations which can make lupus symptoms worse, like Echinacea.
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