Healthy Living

What Conditions Trigger Rheumatoid Arthritis Flare-Ups?

What Conditions Trigger Rheumatoid Arthritis Flare-Ups?

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis Flare-up?

Flare-ups can take place when you least expect them. Everything can be going well with your rheumatoid arthritis, your medications were taken on time and your carrying on with your day.When all of the sudden, you begin to feel severe pain in your joints that is almost unbearable. This is what is known as a rheumatoid arthritis flare-up. Flare-ups are acute periods of extensive pain and inflammation suffered in chronic rheumatoid arthritis. The fortunate part about flares is that they do not last for long. The unfortunate part about flare-ups? Those who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis have no way of predicting when flares will occur.

According to physicians, what patients refer to as a flare or heightened symptoms might not be as severe as they think. Flare-ups vary from person to person. This is why one should not conclude that they are suffering a flare and self-medicate. Flares can be difficult to treat but not impossible. Firstly, the conditions that can trigger these flares must be identified so as to avoid them. Secondly, there are some preventative methods that may help in certain conditions for certain people. One method may be helpful to some patients but not helpful to others.

Conditions triggering flares?

Infections are a common cause of flares. Any type of infections like bacterial, viral, or protozoa can be the cause. Therefore, if a person is suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and acquires an infection, this can cause flares to appear. Medicines prescribed for RA can also be the cause of infections as they can weaken the patient’s immunity. Common ailments like the flu, fever, or even the common cold can cause RA flares.

A highly stressful situation might also result in rheumatoid arthritis flare-ups. Thus, it is recommended to remain out of stressful situations as often as possible. It is still being debated as to whether these conditions are the real cause of flare-ups or not. Flare-ups can be devastating for two reasons. The first is the severity of the pain experienced during a flare and the second is the unpredictability of when a flare is going to strike. This puts the patient in constant fear of performing daily activities as they fear any physical activity may result in a flare. According to Bingham, there are two types of flares. predictable and unpredictable. The flares that occur after an extreme workout are called predictable flares. This results in inflamed and stiff joints but resolves with time. The flares that occur without any sort of physical activity are called unpredictable flares. This flare might not resolve on its own. Sometimes, even medications such as anti-inflammatory drugs may not be able to treat it. It is said that no particular trigger is involved in the unpredictable flares.

It seems that different food groups can also cause flares in some patients with RA. Doctors are at a disadvantage here as the causative foods can vary from person to person. Thus, determination of the causative food groups is difficult to pinpoint. Overworking and tiredness may also add to the symptoms of RA and potentially cause a flare. Not only physical stress but any psychological or emotional stress that leads to fatigue can be a cause as well. Pregnant women with RA are exempt from its symptoms as it is rendered inactive during pregnancy. However, after childbirth some patients complain of being the victim of sudden flares. This means that childbirth could also be a flare generator.  

How to cope with rheumatoid arthritis flares

  • At first, living with flares might seem like a daunting task. The important thing is to stay positive. Rheumatoid arthritis flares can be lived with and managed by efficient measures and serious planning. The following list can help you devise a plan to prepare.
  • Have a back-up plan for severe episodes. Always have a list of family and friends who can assist you at home when needed. Talk to your boss and reduce your work stress or hours when required. These simple first steps can help you get through the worst of days.
  • Stay alert for every sign and symptom. The efficient way to do this is by keeping a journal of your day to day activities and dietary habits. This could come in handy when visiting a doctor. Avoid foods or activities which have been known to cause even the most minor flare. This could help prevent any major episodes in the future.
  • Do not oversleep. When you are experiencing a flare, it is advised not to sleep for long periods of time as it may only worsen the symptoms.
  • Consult your rheumatologist. A plan of action should be discussed with the rheumatologist. Several approaches can be taken. One approach is to change the course of medication temporarily while the flares are unusually active. This can ease pain and decrease the damage. Another approach is to administer anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’S) at the first sight of a flare. It is important to change the medication back to normal once the flare subsides. Keeping strong medication (steroidal) may be useful for patients with more severe symptoms.

Self-care tips

The first and foremost step should be to maintain a good rapport with your doctor. The doctor is the one who can help you in preventing these sudden conditions. Also, it is recommended to join a support group. Doing so could be an immense aid to you in your times of need. It can also be a great place to educate yourself further about your condition.

It is important that the patient’s body receives an adequate amount of rest. However, some regular physical activity must still be performed. A combination of rest with light physical activity is the best. Try to keep a full range of motion in the joints to prevent stiffness. Work schedule must be adjusted to reduce potential stress. Try communicating with family and friends about ways to combat the flares. Educating yourself about flares and what causes them may be another helpful way to fight them. Applying a hot or cold pack to the swollen joint could not only improve circulation of the affected area and relax the muscles, it could also relieve pain. Packs should be applied two to three times a day for 15 minutes. Care must be taken not to overdo this treatment. Practice some techniques that relax or distract your mind from the pain. Although it does not reduce the pain directly, it can indirectly relax the mind. Meditation and yoga are some beneficial methods to try.