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My Lupus Flare Triggers

I wanted to share my own personal experience of what tends to cause my lupus to flare up. This may be like what other lupus warriors can relate to or it may be completely different as our individual journeys and symptoms can differ immensely.

It can be tough as I have often found that I can be feeling horrendous, but my blood work doesn’t always indicate that I'm in a flare-up. I do experience some bowel involvement with my illness, and it is a good indicator for me of when my health starts to go downhill.

Lupus flare symptoms

My flare-up symptoms are:

  • Headaches/migraines
  • Rashes
  • Fast heart rate (tachycardia)
  • Achey muscles/swollen joints
  • Swollen glands
  • Bowel issues
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Infections

Lupus flare triggers

Viruses or colds

I find any type of virus or infection will often cause a flare-up. Even a cold will leave me feeling like I have the full-blown flu. It often takes me at least 3 weeks before I start to feel better. I usually find my glands swell in my neck and my heart rate starts to increase and crushing fatigue along with aching in my muscles. These are classic flare-up signs for me. I have had Covid 3 times and each time it has caused a lupus flare and has really affected my bowels. The first bout was the worst and took me a few months before my immune system started to settle down.

Sun exposure

A huge red flag for me is direct sunlight. Even when I've been driving in the car in the daytime, I start to see a red rash appearing on my face and neck. The summer months are the worst, and I must be so careful that I’m covering up and applying 50 SPF sunscreen. I also wear a wide-brimmed hat that helps to keep the sun off my face.


Pregnancy was exceptionally difficult for me, especially during the first 11 weeks. I was very sick, and I felt like my whole body was struggling. I had all the classic symptoms of a flare-up, once again, especially my bowels, but I also had an additional issue where my body would not let me sleep. It was so difficult because I felt exhausted but for some reason, I kept jolting awake all night long. I’m not sure if this was to do with my lupus or not but it wasn’t much fun. When I reached 11 weeks everything just calmed down and I started to feel better.


I have taken many health supplements over the years, however, I found out the hard way that echinacea and spirulina can cause flares. They boost the immune system but of course, that’s not such a good thing to happen if you have lupus. I’m now extra cautious and I always run anything new past my doctor first before taking it.


Stress is one trigger that you can’t always avoid but I find it’s a culprit in causing my flare-ups. I ended up in the ER last year due to having a very fast heart rate and elevated symptoms of my disease and it was all down to worry about certain aspects of my life at the time.

Exercise/physical exertion

I struggle with exercise in a big way. Ever since my lupus symptoms began, I noticed that I was becoming extremely intolerant. I used to love swimming before I got sick but I find just doing a couple of lengths in the pool these days can cause a flare-up. People often say to me, "But you just need to build it up over time," which I can’t help but feel a little annoyed by as it’s not for the lack of trying! I think it’s often a lack of understanding.

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