What is a flare-up?
Our friends over at Merriam-Webster.com define a flare-up as:
: a sudden outburst of or increase in the symptoms of a disease or conditionHow do I know when I am having a flare-up?
It's easy to assume that more intense and troubling symptoms means that you are having a flare-up. I found that tracking my chronic illness symptoms over time helps me decide if I am having a flare-up of my fibromyalgia or if something new and different is happening.
You can do the same using a symptom log form like the one I found at the CFIDS & FM Self Help website.
Knowing my symptoms helps me decide if I need to see my doctor when I seem to be having a flare-up. (Plus if I have recently injured myself, like when my shower bench broke underneath me, I get checked out because my doctor knows that my chronic pain can mask new problems.)
For example, knee pain wasn't one of my regular fibromyalgia and chronic pain symptoms. So the first time I had intense, sleep-disrupting knee pain, I went to the doctor for a work-up. When the doctor couldn't find anything wrong with my knees that would explain my intense, new pain, we determined it was part of a fibromyalgia flare-up.
So what causes flare-ups?
Just like your symptoms, the causes of your flare-ups can be very specific to you and your condition(s.) Here is a list of some things that cause me to get flared up, which I am sharing to help you get started in thinking about what contributes to your flare-ups:
- Overdoing or overextending myself physically, mentally and/or emotionally.
- Lack of sleep or changes in sleep pattern.
- Prolonged time in one body position, i.e. sitting in a movie theater or driving in the car.
- Viral and bacterial infections, i.e. getting a cold or flu or worsening of my other health conditions.
- Changes in my medications and/or over-the-counter remedies, herbs and supplements. (This might be something as small as a change from one medication manufacturer to another.)
- Over stimulation of any sense: taste, touch, sound, sight and smell.
- Seasonal variations in the weather.
- Mental and emotional stressors like lack of support, anxiety about finances and relationship discord.
- Hormonal changes associate with my monthly cycle, like peri-menopause and menopause symptoms. (This does apply to men as well.)
- Sensitivities or allergies to certain foods or hygiene products I use, like soap, make-up, laundry detergent, etc. (Note that new sensitivities and allergies can develop.)
The key I have discovered to uncovering my flare-up triggers is observing, tracking and recording the relationship between symptoms and things like sleep, rest, activities and events by using an activity log.
I know it seems like a lot of work to figure out your symptoms and flare-ups triggers, but tomorrow I am going to discuss the payoffs for fibromyalgia scientists who take this approach to managing their fibromyalgia (and other chronic illnesses.)