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What is a Flare? One Frustrated Patient’s Definition

What is a Flare? One Frustrated Patient’s Definition

When I was first diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis and started learning about it, I frequently ran across others with psoriatic arthritis discussing “flares.” I thought, “How will I know when I have a flare? I pretty much feel crappy all of the time now. How could it be worse?” About a week later, I had the answers I needed to my question.

What is a flare?

A flare is basically death. Death wrapped up in a neat bow. A bow made up of a fever, swollen joints, overwhelming fatigue, with a bit more than a dash of brain fog to round it all out. I’m sure the doctor’s have some more highly refined and descriptive definition of a flare, but that is mine. You might think I’m being a tad bit dramatic, but I assure you, I am not.

Why is it even called a flare?

Will flames shoot out of my hands when I have one? Do I need to send one up as a warning to others? Don’t come near me. Don’t talk to me. Don’t even look at me funny or I might hurt you. Drop the remote and back away slowly. Or better yet, go to the store and buy me new pjs. Or chocolate. Either way, this is a warning flare. I feel like I should be like one of those warlocks on TV that shoots fire out of my hands. That is what a flare should be. (Go ahead, picture it, I know you are.) That would be epic.

How should I care for this flare you speak of?

Heat, hot, scorching flare. What should I do? Stick my head in a freezer? Sleep in a meat locker? Take an ice bath? The term flare suggests that any or all of those will help. But will they? Ummm. No. Not really. Nothing will. Don’t you remember? Or did the brain fog get you again? I’ll remind you, a flare is basically death.

Sorry I can’t go, I’m having a flare

How am I supposed to even attempt to explain this to my friends in a way that they might understand. A typical conversation goes something like this:

Me: Ah, yeah. I have to cancel. I’m not feeling so well. I’m having a flare.

Them: Flare? Is that like a baby? Having a baby? Having a party? Like a flare? Woohoo!

Me: Um. No. Not so much. Really, not at all. It’s like… (blah blah blah, it doesn’t much matter what else I say here as even with my hearing issues, I’m pretty sure I can actually hear them rolling their eyes and thinking, “again…?”)

Them: Well, okay I guess. Get better soon.


What’s in a name…

So I’ve decided to not call it a flare anymore. From now on, it will be a Spoonie Moment. Yep, you read that right. Old people get away with Senior Moments all the time. Why can’t the chronically ill people get away with Spoonie Moments? Like, a free pass to feel like garbage with no further explanations needed. Yes, I think it is time to forget the word flare. Which won’t be so hard with all this brain fog

Now, I shall leave you to your day, while I crawl under my blanket with my remote, pjs, heating pad, and Netflix. Leave me alone, I’m having a flare Spoonie Moment.

**Please note, this is written with just a dash actually, a whole truckload, of sarcasm. Sometimes it helps me deal with the pain a little easier, and I have found that laughter is really the best medicine. If you don’t want to take it in the spirit it is intended, that is fine, just scroll on…***

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • joknee
    1 month ago

    Amen. Humor is one of the ways I cope with my little deaths.

  • Rebekaus
    2 years ago

    It is so very frustrating, especially when people have know idea what psoriatic arthritis is. I feel guilty not being able to clean like I used too. When I wash dishes or make lunch, my back hurts from just standing in place. Speaking of pain also makes me realize that my rheumatologist has no idea what psoriatric arthritis pain is. Aleve really! She has prescribed 4 different medications, most aren’t made for pain but swelling. It’s frustrating especially when you have so many things that you need to do. Thank you I really enjoyed reading this, it did make me laugh and I am definently going to share this with my partner, hopefully he will have a better understanding of what I go through.

  • Rebecca moderator
    2 years ago

    Do let us know what he thinks of it? It would be interesting to hear another perspective!

  • heavenzchild
    2 years ago

    I love reading the articles as well. It is frustrating to deal with a chronic illness that people can’t see or isn’t well known. I found out I had fibromyalgia in 2006 but didn’t know that I apparently had PsA as well. I was just diagnosed with it 9 months ago and life has been a joy, not. I’ve been disabled since major back surgery the end if 2007 but looking back at the pain and other things I was dealing with and how long I apparently had psoriatic arthritis in my finger nails I’ve probably has PsA for at least 15 years and attributed much of my problems to things I knew like scoliosis, DJD etc. Some of my friends understand but there are times I feel like wishing people had to experience this disease in ALL OF ITS GLORY for just one day. The one thing that helps me get through is my faith for if I didn’t know there was something better ahead I don’t know if I’d be able to deal with this while I care for my husband who also has an invisible chronic illness.

  • joknee
    2 years ago

    So right!

  • Mikesgrl
    2 years ago

    Since Oct 2016 my tripple diagnosis of Fibromialga, psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis Im convinced I have no idea what a non flare feels like. I am also not a unique as I once felt I also have Hismedsasmosis scaring in my eyes. This is a fungal infection that is caught by the airborne virus being something until 5 yrs ago I knew nothing about. This affection alone keeps me unable to use any of the newest biologic meds for the lowering my immune system any further.
    The only person other than my husband that is truely stumped and angry is my Rhuemitolagist. He is anxious to find something to help me arrive at a remission. Constant pain is hell on earth. Depressed? Yes. Tried antidepressants to help with the pain. Didnt work l, Detox from was a whole new level of pain. Needing to still work full time or lose everything my husband and I have worked so hard for, I cant even begin to file for disability. This new normal sucks!

  • J.Nunga
    2 years ago

    How do we get anyone to understand what this disease is? How it affects us? I get so frustrated that people don’t understand, or they don’t want to even try to understand. My partner is probably the most frustrating person I know because he thinks that medications will work some miracle, and I should be better by now, (I’ve had PsA for 3 years), and I often get the impression that others think I’m faking symptoms for sympathy or to get out of doing things.

    Sometimes I tell people its Rheumatoid Arthritis, because they actually know what that is, (well some of them do), if I say Psoriatic Arthritis they just look at me as though I just made up some weird disease to get attention.

    For most people they get sick, they take medication, and get better. We are taught this from childhood. When I first got diagnosed with PsA, I thought the same, how do I treat this and get better. I’ve tried all the DMARDS, none have worked, but they made me feel worse along with the PsA I had nausea, increased blood pressure, heart palpitations, (both of which I have to take medication for now), but no improvement in the PsA. I’m getting to a point where I just have to accept that this is NOT going to be fixed. I can accept this, but trying to get my partner to understand this is more effort than I can cope with.

    I’m exhausted, I’m frustrated, and some days I just want to hide away and not talk to anyone, it’s too much work trying to get people to understand, and I don’t want to bother anymore. Thank goodness for my darling dog, she is such a comfort, she doesn’t judge, she loves me even when I hobble around like an ancient crone.

  • Maisi
    2 years ago

    THANK YOU! THANK YOU!! THANK YOU!!! Your sarcasm hits the mark!!! Your post is one of the most helpful to me because you blend your reality with PsA and your own unique style of dark humor (disguised as, no – bellowing out and pointing to your own frustration). I appreciate your honesty and taking risk!!

  • jeannie
    2 years ago

    My biggest wish for the new year is that my family would understand what a flare is. Or what psoriatic arthritis is, for that matter. After 30 years, you’d think they’d get it. I’m just unreliable and being a drama queen. My PsA and meds have caused osteoporosis on top of everything else, and I’ve broken my ankle, foot, three toes, and a shoulder in the past 3 years. And let’s not forget the total shoulder replacement and four surgeries. They still think that once whatever is broken heals, all will be fine and I’ll be back to my normal life. They don’t understand that this IS my normal life!

  • Randy
    2 years ago

    Great article! I can relate. It’s so helpful to read all the articles on this site and see how others are handling this disease. Humor always helps!

  • Eileen B moderator
    2 years ago

    I’m so glad you’re helped by our community, Randy! That’s why we’re here. If you’d like to share, I’d love to know how you navigate life during flares? (Ah, Spoonie moments….) Do your friends, family, and co-workers help you get through it? -Eileen, Team

  • tiredofpain17
    2 years ago

    Girl I can totally relate to your article!! I got a chuckle out of it but this disease is definitely no joke! There are days I just want to say screw you work and stay in bed. Thank you for sharing some insight into what this illness can do to us!

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