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Discussion:
Flare Ups
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I have been recently diagnosed with RA, kind of. The symptoms are all there but the blood work doesn't show it. I literally woke up one morning about 6 weeks ago with swollen hands and had to remove my rings. It has been downhill since, I can't bend at least one finger on each hand, have a hard time lifting, writing, typing and many other normal functions and swelling in my wrists. Also having a lot of pain in both my hands and neck. I get so tired. Very scary!

Went to the doctor for the first time 2 weeks ago and started on Celebrex & Hydroxychloroquine. It has helped tremendously with the pain. I am on 200mg 2x a day of both. Doesn't work all day, but maybe I am overdoing it. I work full time. The only side effect I have had is stomach pains (if I don't eat when I take it) and 3x I have had some wavy vision thing in one eye.

One of my questions is: Is this what you guys call "A Flare Up"? How long do flare ups last? Will I be able to move better and with less pain when I am not in a flare up?

Thanks in advance for any info you can give me.
Posted on 05/15/08, 02:05 pm
11 Replies | Most Recent Add Your Reply
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Reply #1 - 05/15/08  7:06pm
" My flares start suddenly as well, uasually with a feeling of stiffness, which turns into, painful swollen joints, mainly wrists and fingers also shoulders, now my knees,this can last anything up to 4 or 5 days with me, its a bummer thats for sure. about to start meds so hope they will help, I hope you keep well Trica "
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Reply #2 - 05/15/08  8:34pm
" Tracy you need to become atuned to your body. We all have RA triggers that help with flare ups. Mine are stress and barametric pressure changes. I have had RA going on 12 years and I can tell you it too came on suddenly out of the blue for me. It also goes away like that. One day I may have a paralized right arm and in excruiating pain, the next day I am perfectly fine. The fatigue factor is always present. When I wake up with alot of energy I tend to do too much and suffer for it later. The right meds will help alot. Plaquinel can cause eye issues and I suggest you call your rhuemie and tell them about your wavy vision. RA meds should be able to do more than just help manage pain, they should be able to put you into remission and help you,lead a fairly normal and productive life. Also, excercising the joints is key, because keeping you joints well oiled helps them from stiffening up. Good luck. "
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Reply #3 - 05/15/08  11:38pm
" The first major flare I had lasted for about 8 weeks. I was almost bedridden overnight. My ANA was positive and I had other symptoms but by RF was negative. My family doctor suggested I had lupus but the rheumatologist said he felt certain that my blood work would show a positive RF over time. Sure enough, in five years my rheumatoid factor turned positive. Amazingly, sometimes our bodies harbor these illnesses for a long time without our knowledge and even show up negative in our blood work. Its really a hit and miss....thats why a great rheumatologist is priceless!

After my first major flare ended, I was able to be without any medication for a couple years and felt great. Unfortunately, our flares tend to get closer together as we age IF we are not taking proper medication. Also, specialists now know that even when we are symptom-free (or "in remission" as some people say) the RA can still be working, silently attacking our joints. Thats why the major thought these days is to treat with a medication from the earliest diagnosis on.

I wish you the very best as you continue to deal with this flare....it sometimes helps me to remember that I'm not alone--and that the flare will pass. Better days are ahead as you find the right treatment! "
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Reply #4 - 05/16/08  1:42am
" Once you have been on RA meds for awhile and your pain is at a steady level (hopefully low to none)it is easier to tell when you are in a flare. A flare is when you suddenly feel a lot worse than you usually do. You swell, have pain and stiffness. When that happens give the rheumy a call, they usually want to see you during a flare and give you additional meds to control the flare.

When I was diagnosed with RA that first flare was huge, all over my body, every joint was involved. I refer to that as the Mother Flare, lol. Once the disease was moderately under control I flared every couple of months. Finally my doc added Humira to my med cocktail and I stopped having flares until recently.

Everyone is different. Flares can be far apart or close together, they can be mild or severe. Hope this helps and I didn't ramble too much, lol. Good luck...hugs jilly "
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Reply #5 - 05/16/08  12:36pm
" Tracy, I'm glad you asked the question. I've been thinking about asking what people mean by "Flare ups," too. Intuitively, I think it's pretty easy to understand that people are speaking of unusual events, or periods, when RA symptoms are worse than usual.

But that's where I have some disconnect, because I don't have a "usual." I've had a couple of extended periods between "primary" drugs, where I was getting by on prednisone and ibuprofen. Those periods could be considered "flare ups," with much more severe pain than with the primary drugs, but those periods became my normal while they lasted.

I have some better days than most, and I have worse days, but my situation is relatively constant. Every day I wake up early, take supplemental meds (now, 10mg prednisone, 600mg ibuprofen, 20mg oxycontin) and go back to bed for a couple of hours. Life at 4:00am is always painful and swollen, some days worse than others, and life at 6:00am is better. After I've moved around some, taken a hot shower, stretched, my day is pretty much set. Depending on what I'm hoping to do, I might be ready to go as early as 8:00, but sometimes it just never gets much better. I will often take another dose of ibuprofen to further reduce inflammation, but that's pretty much how it goes.

So, I wonder if the down days, when maybe I can't handle pots and pans or drive my car or ride my bike, would be considered "flare ups" by someone else.

I'm always curious about others' experiences, because we're all unique in the way we're afflicted and deal with RA. I'm curious about what your pain feels like (don't want to feel it, however), but never for a moment doubt that's it's exactly what you say.

I've learned one thing that's almost an absolute in my life: every day I wake up in some amount of pain, and at some point later in the day, I will feel less pain. Maybe some of that is my optimism forcing it's way into my condition.

Thanks for asking that question, Tracy. I hope everybody answers. The next question, is what do others mean by "remission," and what are their expectations. "
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Reply #6 - 05/16/08  2:11pm
" Thanks so much everyone for replying to this question. I have never been in a support group before and wasn't sure people would think my questions were worthy.

Buddahcat - My pain is much like what you describe. Very bad in the morning, much better by 9 or 10 am as long as I don't try to do too much or dumb things. Some days I start getting the pain again around 5 pm other days not till later, once again I think it has a lot to do with my activity that day and also with the amount of sleep I am able to get the night before.

This is all so new that I am not sure from day to day of my answers to some of this.

Today and yesterday were pretty good days but the day before was bad.

Thanks again everyone for responding and helping with my questions. "
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Reply #7 - 05/16/08  3:10pm
" I agree with bizemomm. Stay tuned in to your body. It helped me to keep a log of daily factors and how I felt on those days. It doesn't have to be "poetic"..just jot down notes as thoughts come to you.
I too, have stress as my biggest trigger. When I am most stressed, I'm exhausted and have an achey-breaky body.
I recently have been tracking the "weather" aspect as well. I found an article that simplified the ideas for me. I'm sharing an exerpt here:

[Despite a lack of a proven scientific connection between weather changes and the onset of aches and pains, doctors who specialize in chronic pain can't dismiss the notion.

"Their pain is real," said Dr. Richard Pope, Chief of Rheumatology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, who cites a study done in 1960 to back up his claim. In the study, 12 patients were placed in a chamber in which the barometric pressure and humidity were adjusted. Eleven of the participants had a reaction to the changing conditions.

"When the pressure became low and the humidity was high, patients sensed their joint pain a lot more," Pope said.]

"You take a balloon and you put it into a vacuum. As the pressure is reduced around that balloon, it expands," he explained. "And so the same thing within the tissues around the joints. If there's already swelling, inflammation, abnormal mechanics in the joint, as the pressure goes down, the gas and tissue expand, and this is felt as more pain by the patient. This is why they sense a change in barometric pressure." "
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Reply #8 - 02/01/10  12:53am
" wow, I can't believe I found this site. was trying to find info on flair ups and here you guys are. I'm sitting here crying, feeling like I found a place that understands "
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Reply #9 - 02/01/10  5:54am
" Tracy, I'm so glad, too, that you asked this question. I'm very new to RA- only diagnosed in January - so all this feedback is so helpful. I know everyone is different but I can never be sure what part of my body will be swelling and paining next. "
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Reply #10 - 02/01/10  1:10pm
" When I first joined DS, I asked a similar question :) - and it is still hard for me - my initial flares had distinct beginning and end points - now I have the pain every day so it makes it harder.

I think a flare up is when I feel MUCH worse than I do normally, and I also factor in if my joints are red or swollen. I have pain every day - some days are worse than others. Sometimes my fatigue is okay and other days I can barely keep my eyes open.

I think for me I don't really consider it a flare unless I'm in a lot more pain and have visible swelling or redness - however, the past few weeks have been pretty miserable for me and everything is hurting more, longer, and in new places and my fatigue is insane, so I'm beginning to wonder if I need to redefine a flare for myself. :)

Tort "

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