What is a Sjögren’s Flare?

What is it? How is it treated? Can you avoid it?

Medical dictionaries define “flare” as a sudden exacerbation of a disease. A flare is different from the day-to- day symptoms that patients with chronic diseases experience and is characterized as a large and rapid increase in a patient’s usual symptoms. It is important to use quantitative measures of disease activity to compare levels of disease activity from one point in time (e.g. baseline) to another (e.g. flare).

When patients say they are experiencing a flare, they usually mean that they are experiencing a marked increase in their Sjögren’s symptoms such as dryness of their eyes and/ or mouth, joint and muscle pain, and fatigue. Other symptoms might include swollen glands, skin rashes, or numbness and weakness in extremities. Physicians must make sure that these symptoms and signs are in fact a flare of the Sjögren’s and are not caused by other conditions that are not associated with Sjögren’s. These include infection, anemia, thyroid disease, drug side effects and fibromyalgia syndrome, to mention a few.

Since there is no specific treatment for Sjögren’s at present, treatment is symptomatic and dependent upon which organ system is involved. There are several things you can do to lessen the likelihood of getting a flare. Keep taking the medications prescribed for you on a regular, daily basis. Eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and get restorative sleep.

Those suffering from Sjögren’s say the number one cause of a flare or a relapse is a stressful event. Whether it’s taking a short walk or incorporating a daily meditation routine, finding ways to de-stress is an important part of managing flares. Try to minimize physical and emotional stress and develop good coping mechanisms when stress is unavoidable.

*excerpts courtesy of The Sjögren’s Syndrome Survival Guide