Dealing With Symptoms, Fighting Through Flares

8 Early Symptoms of a Flare Up You Might Not Recognize

We all know the hallmark signs that we are about to experience a flare up of our autoimmune symptoms.  You can’t ignore the debilitating fatigue, unusual rashes, and fevers, or achy joints and muscles that announce we are under serious attack by our immune system.  But did you realize that our body offers us subtle clues our immune system is gearing up for a fight long before the obvious symptoms kick in?  If we can become adept at listening to our body we can offer it the extra rest and TLC it needs to prepare to win a flare up battle.  Here are ten of the early symptoms of a flare-up that you might not recognize.

1. Itchy Ears


Itchy ears usually mean that inflammation is on the rise in the body.  One of the primary battles of autoimmune diseases is with inflammation.  It just so happens that the middle ear is particularly sensitive to inflammation and responds with tell-tale signs of its presence.  When the middle ear starts to become inflamed it causes an itching sensation.  So the next time your ears are itching without a reasonable cause, then consider that it may be the body’s response to inflammation leading to a flare up.

2. Hair Loss


When there are unusual gobs of hair pooling near the drain in the shower it is a sign that your body is on its way to a flare up. Again, this is a result of inflammation throughout the body.  The skin is the largest organ in the body and is just as susceptible to inflammation.  Inflammation can be seen in the skin through rashes and hair loss.  When you notice more hair than normal coming out in the shower or in your comb or brush, it is a symptom that the skin is inflamed and dealing with the beginnings of a flare up.

3. Gastrointestinal Changes

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Your immune system’s home base is your gut.  When your immune system gets out of whack one of the very first things is does is cause gastrointestinal changes.  This could be different for everyone.  For some, it means increased frequency and urgency in bowel movements while for others in mean constipation.  It could also mean nausea, abdominal pain, acid reflux, or an increase or decrease in appetite due to problems.  Whenever what is normal for your gastrointestinal system changes it is red flag number one that your immune system is on the move against you.

4. Dry Eyes or Dry Mouth


Dry eyes and mouth are common symptoms of many autoimmune diseases but when they suddenly take a turn for the worse it indicates the beginnings of a flare up.  Inflammation in the moisture-producing glands causes a serious decrease in moisture which leads to an unusually dry mouth or eyes.  Don’t be too quick to write itchy eyes off to allergies, it just may be a sign that a flare up is under way.

5. Feeling Unusually Cold


Feeling unusually cold could be a result of several factors indicating a flare up.  It could be a sign of unexplained fever.  It could also be a sign of anemia.  Anemia is quite a common symptoms of multiple autoimmune diseases.  Anemia could be a result of red blood cell destruction or an inability of the body to receive the proper nutrients because of an autoimmune attack.  Either way, the phenomenon leaves you feeling unusually cold and indicates the warnings of a flare up.

6. Headaches

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Almost everyone gets headaches from time to time but occasionally a headache could be symptoms of a flare up.  Not to be redundant, but inflammation is the culprit here again.  Inflammation of blood vessels of the brain can cause headaches as well as inflammation of the brain itself.  This particular type of headache is classified as a traction headache or inflammatory headache and are aptly named, the result of inflammation which rides closely ahead of a flare up.

7. Forgetfulness

Tips to overcome forgetful habit

This symptom goes hand in hand with the same cause of headaches.  Inflammation to blood vessels leading the brain as well as the brain itself impairs cognitive function.  If you find yourself a bit more forgetful than normal or struggling to concentrate without explanation, it is likely pointing out that a potential flare up is leading to increased inflammation.

8. Edema or Swelling


Swelling can be quite common in many autoimmune conditions but it always a common identifier of a flare up.  Just like every other indicator before, it is the body’s response to inflammation.  Those puffy eyes might not just be a sign of needing some beauty sleep, they might be pointing to a flare up.  If you notice unusual swelling in the face, around the eyes, hands, feet, legs, or anywhere else on the body it is a sign that inflammation is increasing and so are your chances of a flare up.

Everyone’s body reacts differently to the autoimmune response.  The symptoms that one person has may not be same for the next, or even themselves the next time.  Are there other tiny little indicators of a flare up that you have recognized in your life? I’m interested to know if you have recognized any of the ones I have mentioned as well as which signs I might not have.  The more aware we are of potential triggers to flare ups the more we can do to offer our bodies the extra rest and care it needs to recover quicker.  Share your hints that will help below in the comment section.


21 thoughts on “8 Early Symptoms of a Flare Up You Might Not Recognize”

  1. Thanks for the information. I’d never realized all those pesky problems were leading to a flare, but I’ll certainly be aware from now on.


  2. Loved it all!! It’s so much educational. Doctors at least around here don’t mention theses things. I also feel a lot more asleep, having difficulties to breath, feeling the head as it is full of sth painful I can’t even move it fast.


    1. I’m glad it helped. There is an amazing online chronic illness community all willing to help each other out! You’ll learn all sorts of useful information from the bloggers and advocates out there. Stay connected and find support and information for your journey. 😀


  3. This was a great article, and so on point! I didn’t realize my insanely itchy inner ears, headaches and facial swelling were all forewarning me of the horrible flare I’m having. It’s nice to know there’s support out there.


  4. This is so true. I have struggled with auto-immune for so long but didn’t know what it was. This time when the gastrointestinal changes came I went begging my doctor to do something. She just lowered my thyroid meds which made me sicker. 3years later I find out its autoimmune ugh!!! Getting in remission is now my mission and then trying to figure out how to keep it there


  5. Great Article. I didn’t realize that a lot of those were symptoms. I have those A LOT!
    Thank you for sharing!
    Please feel free to check out my website that I started to help spread some awareness and ideas as well. Have a great one!


  6. the only difference that I get is that my ears don’t itch but they are soooooo dry and my eyes don’t swell up but the rest of my body swell especially my hands


  7. Eleven lonnnnnnnngg years of these symptoms and many others. Two other frequent symptoms for me is louder than usual ringing in the ears and skin agitation with clothing. Also weather humidity changes are an external indicator to pay attention to.
    Found out I also have hep c from blood transfusions years ago, which seems to go hand in hand.


  8. The itchy ears is a new way sign that I get so often but didn’t realize it was a warning. I have been in a severe flair for several months now. After having to go back to work part time I literally sleep 16+ hours each day just to prepare to work for 4. It’s hell but disability would take see my case for 18 months and I can’t lose my house.


  9. This was amazingly informative. Some of those symptoms you listed are so easy to brush off that I never really recognize them as an indicator before. For me, some early warning signs of a Crohn’s flair have been decreased appetite, eczema especially around my chin and forehead, skin hypersensitivity, and canker sores. Never thought of the dry eyes and itchy ears before but it’s true. Also very itchy tongue and the roof of my mouth now that I think about it. Thank you for the great article!


  10. I have most of these symptoms, a couple of which (ears itching, eyes swelling) I didn’t associate with my dysautonomia, but these plus the many more I have I consider to BE the flare-up. Still working on how to avoid the flare-ups!


  11. Wow, I had no idea about the itchy ears! My daughter has Crohn’s and my grandmother had RA, so we are ever on the lookout for symptoms in me and our other 7 children. I suffer from horribly itchy ears.

    Just as an aside, we travel full-time in a travel trailer with our 8 kids, including our sweet Crohnsie. She manages​ her SCD diet and lifestyle needs​ like a champ. Still, I’m glad I found your site through Pinterest to offer some new insights. Blessings!


  12. The only one I don’t have is the itchy ears, the skin on my ears starts burning. The itching all over, burning where my clothes are is going into overdrive. This was a great article, that is very informative. Thank you.


  13. Thank you for this! I will show my husband who tries, but doesn’t really understand. I have FM and genetic Ehler Danlos Syndrome type 3. I get itchy ears but also only just realised an insanely itchy tip of my nose! Inside mouth, nose, eyes and ears get very dry. Living in England our weather changes wildly from day to day! Really affects me. Worse is gastro intestinal symptoms brought on by both FM and EDS presents like IBS.


  14. I have just recently discovered that FM is what has been making me sick for the last 7 years. I have also come to realize that when I get that same cold sore in the same spot, I’m headed for trouble.


  15. Wow my dry mouth has been bothering me ans the puffy eyes are alarming, but I never thought of them being warning signs of flare ups and I’ve had so many. I work at a hospital so the germs aren’t helping either I’ve been fighting colds/flu symtoms so much it’s toi much stress on my body and I don’t recover like most. Thanks fibro. My IBS has me feeling bloated like I’m pregnant even when I go and I’m not constipated. It’s just too much and here comes winter. I’m just praying for bettee moments and looking for ways to help myself keep moving and push through


  16. I get most of these symptoms. I also notice smells more (which can lead to nausea and/or headaches) and being bothered by a lot of movement or activity. I have also noticed I get A LOT more clumsy ie;tripping more and dropping things more. Also its harder to judge distance when I drive.
    Be well everyone!


  17. Just came across this on Pinterest! Check! Check! Check! I never thought about itchy ears having anything to do with a flare, but looking back, my ears itch like crazy!


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