Lupus Triggers — Relax, Controlling Stress

February 3rd, 20101:45 pm @ Angela Odom


I stumbled upon an article today entitled “What is Lupus?” and read something interesting that I don’t believe I’ve ever seen prior. I do remember some time after my diagnosis a few years ago one of my doctors mentioned my condition might have been triggered by menopause. Really? Menopause?

I remember my body going through changes the year prior to my being hospitalized. My menses began, stopped, and then began again. I had a heavier than normal flow during this time and my body felt heavy, there was horrible discomfort and I began having subtle hot flashes. By the end of that year, 2004, the rashes began starting with an itchy herald spot (similar to Pityriasis rosea) on my right elbow that spread down my arm. Two years prior I lost my partner and went into a tailspin of grief and prior to that, I underwent a good deal of stress as caregiver to a caregiver, my mother who was taking care of my uncle. I cannot help but wonder if all of these combined contributed to my immune system going haywire. In my gut, I believe it did.

Truly, my medical history is filled with all sorts of weird events from heart attacks to chronic tonsilitis, pancreatitis and more. At some point in my late 20s, early 30s, everything calmed down until I found myself at the door of menopause.

Reading the aforementioned article lead me to another site at Lupus West Midlands which mentions lupus can be triggered:

  • at puberty
  • after childbirth
  • during menopause
  • after viral infection
  • through sunlight
  • as a result of trauma
  • after a prolonged course of medication
  • They go on to say “one or more of the above can set off the illness in people who may have susceptibility to Lupus. Lupus is often triggered in people where there is existing family history of Lupus and/or other immune system illnesses, such as arthritis, rheumatism, MS and others.” It is not like I hadn’t heard or read that before but “during menopause” was something I had not seen.

    The Lupus Foundation of America neither mentions menopause as a cause nor a trigger for lupus. Actually, their list is a little more involved but they do list emotional stress as an environmental trigger that can bring on a flare:


    While a person’s genes may increase the chance that he or she will develop lupus, it takes some kind of environmental trigger to set off the illness or to bring on a flare. Examples include:

  • ultraviolet rays from the sun
  • ultraviolet rays from fluorescent light bulbs
  • sulfa drugs, which make a person more sensitive to the sun, such as: Bactrim® and Septra® (trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole); sulfisoxazole (Gantrisin®); tolbutamide (Orinase®); sulfasalazine (Azulfidine®); diuretics
  • sun-sensitizing tetracycline drugs such as minocycline (Minocin®)
  • penicillin or other antibiotic drugs such as: amoxicillin (Amoxil®); ampicillin (Ampicillin Sodium ADD-Vantage®); cloxacillin (Cloxapen®)
  • an infection
  • a cold or a viral illness
  • exhaustion
  • an injury
  • emotional stress, such as a divorce, illness, death in the family, or other life complications
  • anything that causes stress to the body, such as surgery, physical harm, pregnancy, or giving birth
  • Although many seemingly unrelated factors can trigger the onset of lupus in a susceptible person, scientists have noted some common features among many people who have lupus, including:

  • exposure to the sun
  • an infection
  • being pregnant
  • giving birth
  • a drug taken to treat an illness
  • I guess the bottom line for me was learning to relax and controlling stress, particularly now that I am in the throes of menopause. Stress can injure the body in more ways than you think. I am learning this now. I also believe controlling stress has contributed to a low incident of flares, thank God. Instead of having a major incident every month as it was in the early days, I now find I’ll have little incidents every three or four months. I’m working to keep those down as well.

    Controlling stress, eating right and exercise have all contributed to keeping the wolf down to a low growl. This has been quite a learning experience for me. Changing old and very bad habits has been tough but well worth it. I realize now I am not that spring chicken who could bounce back from bad decisions. Not anymore. Today I have to maintain focus, in spite of myself. That does not mean I won’t fall off a wagon somewhere along the way, I will. Since I don’t want to end up dead or spending my days at Hotel Huntington, vigilance is key.

    Tags:  Menopause, Stress, Triggers