One large part of managing life with psoriatic arthritis (PsA) involves navigating flares. When symptoms suddenly worsen, we look for an explanation.
A trigger is anything that prompts an increase in or return of symptoms. In addition to chronic pain, managing doctor appointments, debilitating fatigue, and heavy stigma, managing life with PsA include keeping a grasp on potential triggers - and triggers can always change or come out of the blue.
What did those with PsA have to say?
We were curious about triggers and the onset of flares and we wanted to hear directly from the community.
To learn more, we turned to the Psoriatic-Arthritis.com Facebook community . There, we asked you: "Fill in the blank. I was surprised ____ causes my psoriatic arthritis to flare." Let's dive into the responses...
Food is a common trigger for many community members. Through trial and error and elimination diets, you discover which foods trigger your symptoms. Avoiding or only eating them sparingly helps manage your PsA. These are some that you mentioned as problematic.
“Dairy for sure.”
“Nightshade plants [tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, all peppers, red spices sourced from peppers, like cayenne and paprika].”1
“Sugar and gluten.”
“Wine. I had a half glass for New Year and couldn’t move by Monday.”
“Corn in any variation.”
Another trigger many of you experience is stress. Work stress, home stress, life stress – they all add up and take a toll on the body. When living with PsA, that toll manifests as flares. You hurt, ache, and struggle to move. Reducing stress is not always easy or entirely within your control.
“My boss’s behavior.”
“Stress is definitely a huge factor. My job is far from being stress-free, and it takes me almost 4 days of my 7 days off to recover (1 week on and 1 week off).”
“Stress is the biggest one for me; it takes about 2 weeks for it to properly show after times of real stress.”
“Stress and drama from family on, 'How come you can’t do this or that anymore, etc.'”
Sitting too long
The inflammation in the joints makes balancing rest and movement vital with PsA. Many of you shared that sitting for more than 2 hours creates problems. Around 2 hours, your body starts getting angry. The pain begins to flare. It makes long commutes or car trips challenging .
“Taking a 2-hour trip to visit my family can start problems.”
“Long drives. Sitting on hard chairs.”
“Riding in a car more than a couple of hours.”
Many of us remember our grandparents saying, “I can feel the weather in my bones.” With PsA, you understand just what they meant. Weather impacting your symptoms is your lived reality. Some of you find heat and humidity worse for your symptoms. Others find cold and wet more difficult. Often, it is the rapid barometric changes that hurt.
“Barometric pressure swings high to low this winter is wreaking havoc.”
“Fluctuating weather from hot to cold too quickly, and vice versa. I live in Texas, and the weather has been hell on me. My body just doesn’t know how to handle it.”
“Cold and wet weather.”
“Summer with high humidity is the hardest time for me.”
“I dread weather changes. When a front comes through, my PsA flares so bad sometimes that the pain is almost unbearable.”
Several of you find the state of your mental health impacts PsA symptoms. When depression or anxiety is worse, PsA flares. Emotional turmoil can lead to pain in your joints. It highlights the interconnection of the body – mental, physical, and emotional.
“Anxiety and depression. It’s a horrid vicious cycle because being in physical pain aggravates my mental health.”
“Being around unhappy people.”
Overdoing it and injuries
It is easy to push yourself too hard when you are feeling well. You forget, temporarily, that you have PsA. You enjoy feeling normal and engaging in a favorite activity. Ignoring your body's boundaries often leads to a flare.
“My PsA is triggered by injuries or harder than usual exercise or overdoing gardening, etc.”
“I love to crochet but have to be careful. If I overdo it, I pay.”
“Using a mouse too much, playing the piano, writing – all can be hard on my hands if I overdo it.”
“Activities; there’s a fine line between ok and pretty bad.”
“Not pacing myself and overdoing it when I’m feeling ok.”
“A nasty fall.”
Falling ill with an infection can trigger PsA symptoms. It takes longer to recover from a cold or the flu when PsA flares. Symptoms aggravate each other. Feeling fully functional can take a long time.
“If I have a cold/come down with a bug.”
“A recent cold has put me into a flare. I can’t shake the cold, and the flare is horrible.”