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Common triggers associated with lupus

A lupus "flare" or "flare up" is when your lupus symptoms worsen and you feel ill as a result.

So what can trigger a lupus flare up?

The following are common environmental triggers:

  • Ultraviolet rays from the sun or from fluorescent light bulbs - People who suffer from lupus have cells which are much more sensitive to the damage caused by UV radiation. Once the cells are damaged, the immune system clears them, but people with lupus have a much slower clearance of these cells. The dead cells stick around in the body, triggering an immune system attack.

  • Medication - Sulfa drugs, which make a person more sensitive to the sun, such as: Bactrim® and Septra® (trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole); sulfisoxazole (Gantrisin®); tolbutamide (Orinase®); sulfasalazine (Azulfidine®); diuretics. Sun-sensitising tetracycline drugs such as minocycline (Minocin®). Penicillin or other antibiotic drugs such as: amoxicillin (Amoxil®); ampicillin (Ampicillin Sodium ADD-Vantage®); cloxacillin (Cloxapen®).

  • An infection, a cold or a viral illness - People with lupus are more likely to experience infection and infection-related complications. This is because their immune system is weakened by both the disease and the medication used to treat it. The most common infections for people with lupus include those of the respiratory tract, skin and urinary system.

  • An injury, in particular a traumatic injury - Tissue damage associated with a severe injury can result in profound inflammatory responses that may trigger autoimmune development in lupus-prone individuals.

  • Emotional stress - Stress brought on by things such as a divorce, illness, death in the family, or other life complications. Stress can trigger your lupus symptoms or make them worse.

  • Stress to the body - Stress to the body such as surgery, physical harm, pregnancy, giving birth and even periods. Research shows that estrogen helps make women's immune systems stronger than men's, so the hormone could also trigger lupus or make it worse. Some women with lupus also get symptom flare-ups around their period or during pregnancy when estrogen levels are higher.

  • Exhaustion - Fatigue is a common symptom of lupus, leaving people feeling tired or lacking energy, despite good sleep habits.

This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.


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