Sunday, August 29, 2010

All Flared Up

Anyone with a chronic condition speaks in terms of good pain days and bad pain days. While they may experience a period of good days, weeks and even months when symptoms wax and wane, there are often times when they will experience a sudden worsening of their symptoms of the disease or condition. People who live with a chronic condition call the intensification in their pain and symptoms a 'flare-up'.

So what does a flare-up mean? According to wikipedia, a flare-up refers to either the recurrence of symptoms or an onset of more severe symptoms. A flare in usual symptoms means more episodes of acute pain which can last anywhere between a day to a few days, to weeks or even months.

Periodic flare-ups disrupt, distress and depress. For the most part they are unpredictable. They can strike at any given moment. Pain is exacerbated by internal and external factors of which sometimes you can determine the cause and sometimes you cannot. Learning to deal and cope with flare-ups is an essential part of living with a chronic condition, so I'll dedicate a few posts in the next coming months to coping with the dreaded flare and how to prevent and manage flare-ups.

Flare-ups are a challenge and these past few weeks have been exactly that. Right now I'm in the middle of an arthritic flare-up. Joint pain and stiffness are worse than ever before, fatigue has greatly increased and I'm suffering from insomnia because the pain is too unbearable to sleep through. Typing, sitting, standing, laying in bed and walking all hurt. The simplest of tasks take an enormous amount of energy. I'm all flared up and it warrants another trial of prednisolone (cortisone). That's how bad it has gotten.


Considering that I saw eighty percent improvement in joint pain and fatigue during my first trial a couple of years ago, I was pretty excited when my rheumatologist suggested this as my next option for some short term pain relief. I call it piggy prednisolone because last time I gained so much weight on my face that I looked like little miss piggy! So I'm back on my fat medication. Ha! Although this time round I'm taking a lower dose, starting at 15mg instead of the 25mg I was taking last time, I got my hopes up yet again, expecting sweet pain relief. I was not expecting to be disappointed.

For the three weeks that I have been back on prednisolone I have seen no improvement whatsoever. Night times are now just the worst. I'm having to take extra pain killers just to be able to sleep, leaving me feeling more drugged up and drowsy than ever before. I just want to stop hurting. At present the only part of my body that doesn't hurt are my ear lobes!


This flare-up is really taking its toll, both physically and emotionally. It is really tough but I know that I am tougher than it. Sure, I cry, I get mad and I feel sorry for myself but flare-ups are what make me determined to keep fighting. Yes, there are days when watching tv all day is sometimes all you can do and it simply sucks but a bad flare day is better than no day at all. It is so easy to feel like a failure when you're in the middle of a flare-up but it is important to know that they are NOT failures. I try to remember that they are only temporary setbacks. This is a temporary setback NOT a hopeless situation and I will get through this one just as I have every other one. I think of the good days. I rejoice in them and that is what gets me through. I delight in the fact that today's impossibility may well become tomorrow's achievement.

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