Living with lupus can be like riding a rollercoaster. Some days are smooth and manageable. Others can bring unexpected twists and turns.  

Lupus flare-ups are one of those challenging dips that many individuals living with lupus struggle with. They can be scary and frustrating, but know you are not alone! In this blog post, we’ll explore what flare-ups are, triggers and warning signs, their common symptoms, and strategies for preparing for and managing them. 

What is a Lupus Flare Up?
A flare-up refers to a period of time when lupus symptoms become more severe, or new symptoms may appear. These flare-ups can vary in intensity and duration, lasting from several days to a few weeks or even longer. The exact cause is unknown, but they can be triggered by factors such as infections, stress, sunlight, and more. It is important to communicate with healthcare providers about flare-ups and any changes in symptoms to receive appropriate management and treatment. 

Common Symptoms: 

It’s important to remember that everyone’s experience with lupus is unique, so symptoms of flare-ups vary for each person. Here are some common symptoms people living with lupus experience during a flare-up:

  1. Fatigue: Increased fatigue is a common symptom of a lupus flare-up.

  2. Joint pain, stiffness, and swelling: Lupus flare-ups can cause joint pain, stiffness, and swelling, especially in the hands, wrists, and knees.

  3. Skin Rash: A butterfly-shaped rash on the face that covers the cheeks and bridge of the nose is a common symptom of a lupus flare-up. Rashes elsewhere on the body may also occur.

  4. Light Sensitivity: Exposure to sunlight or indoor light can cause rashes, fever, fatigue, or joint pain in some people with lupus.

  5. Raynaud’s Phenomenon: When exposed to cold or during stressful periods, your fingers and toes turn white or blue.

  6. Mouth Sores: This uncomfortable symptom can also cause pain and difficulty with talking and eating.

  7. Fever: A fever higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit can be a symptom of a lupus flare-up.

  8. Digestive Symptoms: Stomachache, nausea, or diarrhea, can be a symptom of a lupus flare-up.

Flare Up Triggers And Warning Signs:  

  • Infections: Infections, such as a cold or flu, can activate the immune system and trigger a flare-up

  • Stress: Emotional stress or physical stress (surgery, harm, overexertion, exhaustion) can trigger a lupus flare-up

  • Exposure to sunlight: Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from sunlight or indoor light can trigger a lupus flare-up 

  • Medications: It is important to discuss any new medications with your healthcare provider and to take medications exactly as prescribed to avoid flare-ups 

  • Hormonal changes: Hormonal changes, such as those that occur during pregnancy or menopause, can trigger a lupus flare-up 

While flare-ups can be unpredictable, sometimes there are warning signs that indicate a flare-up is coming. Keeping a daily symptom journal can be a helpful tool for tracking symptoms and identifying patterns. Here are some common warning signs: 

  • Increased fatigue: Feeling more tired than usual, even after getting enough rest 

  • Pain: Joint pain, muscle pain, and headaches 

  • Rash: A new or worsening rash, especially in response to sunlight 

  • Fever: Higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit  

  • Digestive symptoms: Such as stomachache, nausea, or diarrhea 

  • Dizziness: Feeling lightheaded or dizzy 

  • New or unexplained symptoms: Any new or unexplained symptoms should be reported to your healthcare provider as soon as possible 

Tips For Managing Lupus Flare Ups: 

  • Eat Well and Drink Plenty of Water 

Proper diet and nourishment can reduce the length of a flare-up. Make sure you’re taking vitamin D, iron, and anti-inflammatory supplements. and putting greens in your body. When you are feeling well, stock your kitchen with comforting, nutritious, easy-to-prepare foods. You’re not going to feel like cooking when you’re fatigued and in pain, so make healthy eating simple for yourself.

  • Get Plenty of Rest 

Sleep! Don’t feel guilty about sleeping, especially if your body needs it. Pushing through just makes the flare-up symptoms, especially fatigue, worse. Whatever is on your to-do list can usually wait and is not worth stressing about. It is essential to prioritize sleep and rest during flare-ups. If you’re working, request a day or half-day off and use that time to lay in bed, watch your favorite movie, tv show, and take care of yourself. Baths especially are helpful for joint pain.

  • Avoid Emotional Stress

Practicing relaxation techniques like mindful deep breathing, meditation, or yoga helps reduce emotional stress. You can also consider talking to a licensed counselor or therapist about your stress.  

  • Avoid Physical Stress

Regular gentle exercise (anything is better than nothing!) and plenty of rest can help with physical stress. Light stretching or exercise/yoga helps tremendously with the pain. Swimming is also good exercise to relieve joint pain and pressure. 

  • Avoid Sunlight

Limit the time you spend in the sun and in fluorescent and halogen light 

  • Seek Support

Reach out to your healthcare team and let them know about your flare-up. Talking to family and friends can also help lower stress levels. Reach out to lupus communities like this one to see what has worked for others. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it during this time to help take things off your plate. 

  • Follow Your Treatment Plan 

Following your treatment plan and taking care of yourself is the best way to keep your lupus under control. Talk to your doctor about ways to relieve symptoms when flare-ups happen. If the doctor has you taking meds set your alarm, so you take them on time. 

  • Keep a Log of Each Day During Your Flare

Figure out what triggers your flares, what helps you get through them better, what types of things help with relief, or any information to help you prepare for your next flare. Recognizing how your body responds to the care you give it can help you reduce the severity and frequency of your flare-ups. 


Living with lupus can present challenges, especially during flare-ups. By staying informed, recognizing warning signs, and proactively managing the condition, individuals with lupus can lead fulfilling lives. Remember, you are not alone on this journey. Connect with others in the lupus community, share experiences, and discover more strategies for managing and preparing for lupus flare-ups. Together, we can face lupus head-on and support one another on this roller coaster ride. 


  1. Lupus Flare-Ups | US in Lupus. (n.d.). 
  2. UPMC Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology. (2021, July 8). What are lupus flare-ups? | UPMC HealthBeat. UPMC HealthBeat. 
  3. Common triggers for lupus | Lupus Foundation of America. (n.d.). Lupus Foundation of America. 
  4. What is a lupus flare? | Lupus Foundation of America. (n.d.). Lupus Foundation of America. 
  5. Managing lupus. (2022, July 5). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 
  6. Sreenivas, S. (2022, March 15). Lupus: Stress Management Techniques to Control flares. WebMD. 

Are You Ready for Your Next Lupus Flare Up? 

by: Laura Jaramillo