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May is National Arthritis Awareness Month

May 1, 2022

What Causes Flare Ups and How to Avoid them

If you are one of the 54 million adults diagnosed with arthritis then you have most likely either experienced a flare up. May is National Arthritis Awareness Month and arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the United States. It doesn’t have to be if we can find ways to manage the disease and eliminate triggers for flare ups.

There are different types of arthritis ranging from osteoarthritis (most widely known), psoriatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and more. One common denominator amongst all the different types of arthritis is that flare ups can occur from time to time causing joint pain, stiffness, swelling and a host of other side effects depending on what type of arthritis it is. If you have a form of arthritis and you’ve experienced a flare up then you know that getting to the root of what caused the episode is most important so you can decrease the chances of that happening again.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is not a systemic disease meaning it only impacts joints individually and doesn’t impact the entire body. This form is what is most commonly known in society. As people age, osteoarthritis occurs due to natural changes within the joints.

Flare ups can happen with this type of arthritis especially from overuse of a joint which can cause swelling, stiffness, or pain in an area. Other causes are bone spurs, stress, cold weather, weight gain or an infection.

Avoid flare ups by moderating your activities to be gentle and low impact if you know that certain joints are prone to them. Focus on slow and controlled movements, utilize hot or cold compresses, manage stress levels, and get lots of rest to diminish the occurrence of a flare up.

Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is a systemic inflammatory disease that affects the skin and the joints throughout the body.

Common triggers for psoriatic flare ups are stress, injury to your skin, medications, bacterial infections and environmental factors such as allergies and weather changes. Diet and alcohol consumption are other possible triggers. These triggers which cause flare ups may result in side effects such as psoriatic plaques, pain and swelling in one or several joints. Organs can be affected as well because PsA is a systemic disease.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune and inflammatory disease that attacks healthy cells in your body which can cause painful swelling in certain areas of the body such as the knee or finger joints. Like psoriatic arthritis (PsA), rheumatoid arthritis can affect organs within the body.

Flare ups can occur due to similar causes experienced in patients diagnosed with osteoarthritis and PsA such as overuse, stress, infection, and poor sleep. One other common reason for a flare up with an RA patient is not following consistent treatment methods prescribed by your care team. In other words, someone choosing to skip or stop the administration of prescribed medications required to keep their RA manageable. This can result in side effects such as joint pain and swelling, stiffness, redness, fatigue and even mental fogginess.

Other Side Effects

The most important part of flare ups is to treat the symptoms, so more damage isn’t done. Be proactive about talking to your doctor in the event of a flare up. Also, if your arthritis symptoms change all of a sudden and it feels as if you are experiencing flare ups more often then talk with your doctor. Sometimes treatment plans need to change with time to manage the disease.

If symptoms worsen and are not addressed properly then people can cause permanent damage to joints, cause organ damage or even experience depression and mood swings all of which decrease quality of life.

Prevention Tips

No matter what type of arthritis you have, it is always a good idea to formulate a plan of action with your doctor for when a flare up occurs. Using journals, calendars or diaries to track your day to day symptoms and treatment can be helpful to both you and the doctor. Also focus on eating a clean and varied diet, avoid alcohol consumption, avoid smoking, find healthy ways to manage stress and take your medications as prescribed, consistently, to maintain control of this disease.

For more information about arthritis flare ups visit arthritis.org

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