What Exactly Is A Flare Up And How Long Does It Last?

Question

Asked by Jamie

What Exactly Is A Flare Up And How Long Does It Last?

I've had RA since Dec 2007, diagnosed officially in January, 2008. I take methotrexate and Humira every week. They seem to be helping a lot; however, once in a while my wrist will hurt and I'll have to wear a splint for a day - is that a flare or am I just overusing or incorrectly using or placing that particular joint which leads to the pain? I've heard people talk about flare ups, but I don't really understand what it means. Could someone explain what they are and how long they last. Thanks.

Answer

Like Kelly said, that's an interesting question. I'm not sure there is a medical definition of a flare. For instance, where is the line between uncontrolled RA and a flare or are they the same thing? I'd argue that 10 years of active disease qualifies as uncontrolled RA - sure, flaring is part of that, but to me, sort of a part of the other term.

it sounds to me that if your RA is generally managed, your occasional symptoms are probably caused by overdoing. However, only if the pain is not accompanied by redness, heat and swelling in the joint - as those are symptoms of active disease, they would indicate that you should speak to your doctor about adjusting the medication dose. That said, when you have RA, it can damage your joints and make them more susceptible to stress and it's very common to experience pain if you do too much, even when your disease is suppressed. When that happens, splints, increased pain killers, applying heat and/or ice are all parts of managing the consequences of doing too much.

Did I just confuse things even more? I'd recommend that you bring this up with your rheumatologist to get their input.