There’s nothing more invigorating than opening your window on a spring day and breathing in the fresh air—unless you have spring allergies, that is. In that case, taking a whiff of those budding blooms may only lead to sneezing and wheezing.Allergies, including seasonal allergies, occur when your immune system mistakenly sees typically harmless substances (like pollen) as a threat. This sets off an attack that leads to an allergic reaction, which can affect your nasal passages, skin, airways, eyes, and digestive system. These reactions can range from mild to severe and vary by person, according to the Mayo Clinic. While you can’t cure allergies, you can learn to control them. Here’s how to conquer your spring allergies when pollen season hits full swing.What are the most common spring allergens?Tree pollen is the most common spring allergen, according to a 2021 allergy report from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA).1 Even if you don’t live by a forest, tree pollen is more likely to affect you because the pollen grains are very small. We’re talking about the tiniest of pinches containing thousands of grains, which are even smaller than ragweed pollen grains, the main fall allergy offender. The wind can carry tree pollen for several miles, making spring allergies especially hard to avoid.There are lots of different tree types that release pollen associated with spring allergies, including:AshAspenBirchCedarElmHickoryOakOlivePecanPoplarWillowGrass pollens can also trigger spring allergies for many people, but it depends on where you live. In the northern U.S., grass allergies are at their worst in the late spring and early summer. In the south, grasses may release pollen all year long, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Weed pollen is typically more of late summer or early fall allergen, so you might be spared in the spring.Back to topWhat do spring allergy symptoms feel like?Spring allergy symptoms are the result of a complex set of reactions that occur in the body. Researchers tend to break these reactions down into an early phase and a late phase.According to a 2020 study published in the journal Asthma, Allergy, and Clinical Immunology, in the early phase, an allergen (like pollen) enters your body. There are specific receptors on your cells called antigen-specific immunoglobulin e (IgE) receptors. These IgE receptors trigger a rapid response in the body that involves the release of histamines and other substances that quickly trigger symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, and itchy eyes.2 Think of these symptoms as those that occur seemingly the minute you step outside on a nice spring day.The late-stage effects are when your body takes hours to respond to allergen exposure. The cells release other substances that cause inflammation in the body. This inflammation then leads to tissue swelling, which can spur nasal congestion and, in some people, asthma symptoms, such as shortness of breath, coughing, and wheezing. Uncontrolled asthma can be dangerous, so it’s important to talk with your doctor or allergist if you experience those symptoms.To sum it up, common spring allergy symptoms can include the following:Dark circles under your eyes (known as “allergy shiners”)Itchy eyes and noseRunny noseSneezingStuffy noseWatery eyes“Some people also have really bad fatigue, which can be the major symptom of their seasonal allergies,” Gary Stadtmauer, MD, FACP, an allergist in private practice in New York City, tells SELF. “Those people need to come in to see an allergist and, in my experience, typically need allergy shots.”
One of those great ideas was walking around with a weighted vest towards the end of her rehab, which she says drastically improved her gait and balance. Kicking soccer balls and shooting basketballs was also a huge help with her coordination, she says.“Through all this, I’ve realized that surviving a stroke is an opportunity to find yourself in courage, strength, and determination to overcome the odds,” she says. Now that she’s on the other side, she wants to share the strength she found with others through the Young Empowered Stroke Survivors Foundation.2. I found the strength to set some boundaries in my personal life.At the young age of 41, Kati W. had not one but two strokes. A self-professed workaholic and mother of three, Kati worked an entire week with intermittent stroke symptoms before finally seeking care at the emergency room. “I’m telling you, nothing phased me—I just kept working and never complained,” Kati explains. “I did go numb on my left side for a week, but I continued to work through it.”Although Kati’s face never drooped (a common stroke symptom), there were plenty of other signs she did ignore. “My typing got worse on my left hand, and I kept dropping things,” she describes. “I forgot to wear shoes to work twice that week, and I brushed it off as no big deal. I never thought of or considered a stroke.”By the time Kati was diagnosed, the ischemic stroke (her first one) had converted to a hemorrhagic one, thus she had significant bleeding in her brain. As a result of both strokes, she lost function on her left side. In just a few weeks, Kati says her life completely changed. At age 41, she couldn’t walk, drive, or work. Losing that kind of independence at such a young age was jarring, she says. “I’m wheeling into rehab with no function and mobility on my entire left side, looking around and seeing nobody my age.”With time to reflect, Kati realized she was placing great demands on her body and mind, which led to uncontrolled high blood pressure—a key component of what her doctors say caused her stroke. “What I learned is that I worked too much and overloaded my stress levels and kept saying ‘it doesn’t bother me,’ but physically, it really affected my health,” she says.Post-stroke, Kati is grateful for her family and friends and intends to set boundaries for the benefit of her physical and mental health in the future. Right now, she’s not able to work, but she’s practicing those boundary-setting skills with her friends and family. “I’ve learned to be kind and patient with myself, ask for help when I need it and set some boundaries. For example, I found that the fewer visitors I had, the better, so I would leave nice notes on my door that said I appreciated people’s time but was not ready to visit.”3. I committed myself to rehabilitation, regular exercise, and therapy.Christie S., 43, experienced an aneurysm rupture in 2014. An aneurysm is a bulge in the blood vessels in the brain and when it ruptures, it causes a hemorrhagic stroke. “My memory was completely wiped out,” she says. “I had to learn how to walk and talk again, and basically restart my life.”
After her diagnosis, Kristen received a pamphlet from her doctor’s office explaining how to manage hidradenitis suppurativa at every stage, which she says was invaluable. “That was probably the most helpful thing I’d ever seen in the years I’d researched what I could possibly have,” Kristin says. Knowing that she had stage two helped Kristin better understand her physician assistant’s recommendations. 3. How is hidradenitis suppurativa treated?Your doctor may recommend a combination of prescription medications (such as topical antibiotics and steroid injections), changes to your skin-care regimen (like using an antiseptic wash when showering such as chlorhexidine 4% or benzoyl peroxide), and potentially surgery to remove the bumps, according to the Mayo Clinic.Kristin was relieved to learn she didn’t need more surgery. After some trial and error, she found a winning combination that helps reduce her hidradenitis suppurativa flare-ups: She washes her thighs with antibacterial soap and wears underwear that extends to the middle of her thighs, reducing friction and sweating, both of which can worsen flares. “Between the shorts and the soap, I have been in control of my condition ever since,” she says. “If I go one day and I wear regular underwear, sweat a lot, or have a lot of friction, it’s game over.”It’s important to remember that you’re dealing with a complex condition, so it may take some time to find a treatment plan that works for you. Ask your doctor how long you should try a particular treatment before concluding it isn’t working and moving on to something else.4. Does laser hair removal make sense for me?Teresa K., 32, was diagnosed with hidradenitis suppurativa in 2017; she says laser hair removal has brought her great relief. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), having less hair on areas with H.S. can reduce the number of lumps you have. Laser hair removal is generally more effective for mild cases and can require at least three laser treatments, given once every four to six weeks. It’s also worth noting that people with dark skin have a greater risk of hyperpigmentation from certain types of lasers. The procedure also can be less effective for people with light hair, according to the Mayo Clinic.5. Can hidradenitis suppurativa affect my mental health?Dealing with chronic pain and recurring lesions can definitely take a toll on your mental health. Indeed, people with hidradenitis are more likely to experience depression and generalized anxiety, according to a 2021 study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology4.“If you are struggling to cope with H.S., let your doctor know,” Kelsey Flood, MD, a clinical instructor in dermatology at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, tells SELF. “We want to help take care of you as a whole person, not just your skin.” Your dermatologist can refer you to a therapist who is experienced working with people who have chronic conditions, or they can refer you to a psychiatrist if you are interested in pursuing medications such as antidepressants.6. What are some misconceptions about hidradenitis suppurativa?Because H.S. looks similar to an infection, people sometimes think it’s contagious or the result of poor hygiene. But this couldn’t be farther from the truth. “Hidradenitis suppurativa is an inflammatory medical condition—it is not an infection,” Dr. Mayo says. It occurs when hair follicles become blocked, and experts aren’t sure why this happens in the first place. It could be related to genetics, hormones, excess weight, or smoking cigarettes, according to the Mayo Clinic. The bottom line? H.S. is not contagious so you don’t need to worry about giving it to a friend, family member, or partner.7. How can I connect with others who have hidradenitis suppurativa?Getting diagnosed with H.S. can feel isolating, but remember: You’re not alone. Dr. Flood recommends checking out the HS Foundation to find a support group and an HS patient card, which explains what the condition is to those who are unfamiliar with it (For example, it can be useful if you need medical care while traveling.) Dr. Flood also recommends Hope for HS, a nonprofit advocacy group, to anyone looking for support.Sources:BMJ, Hidradenitis Suppurativa: A Common and Burdensome, Yet Under-Recognised, Inflammatory Skin DiseaseDermatology, Delayed Diagnosis of Hidradenitis Suppurativa and Its Effect on Patients and Healthcare SystemStatPearls, Hidradenitis SuppurativaJournal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Comorbidity Screening in Hidradenitis SuppurativaRelated:
Type 2 diabetes is one of the most common chronic health conditions in the U.S. (a whopping 10.5% of the population has it1)—yet it is woefully misunderstood by most people. There are all kinds of misconceptions about what causes type 2 diabetes. Because of this, you might think you did something wrong if you get a type 2 diabetes diagnosis. But the truth is, the condition is the result of a combination of factors, some of which can be outside of your control. Ultimately, type 2 diabetes occurs when your body doesn’t use insulin properly. The good news is, that there are lots of ways to change that. Keep reading to learn what really causes type 2 diabetes—and what you can do to prevent it.What is type 2 diabetes?In a nutshell, type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when your pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin (or doesn’t use it efficiently), which results in too much glucose (or sugar) circulating in your blood, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Over time, high blood sugar levels can cause problems with your immune, nervous, and circulatory systems. Worth noting: If your body has started having problems producing insulin and using glucose, but your blood sugar hasn’t yet risen to a concerning level, then you may be diagnosed with prediabetes.So, what’s the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes? Type 1 diabetes also occurs when there is too much glucose in the blood, but it’s an autoimmune condition, meaning the body attacks the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.What causes type 2 diabetes?Experts don’t know exactly what causes type 2 diabetes, but there are several factors at play—some are within your control (think: getting enough exercise) while others are outside of your control (like genetics). Here are some possible causes:Insulin resistanceThe main culprit of type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance is when your body doesn’t use insulin efficiently, which leads to high blood sugar. Glucose is what your body uses for energy. But it has a lock on it, meaning it can’t get into your cells on its own; it needs insulin to do that (think of insulin as a key that opens the lock so glucose can enter).Insulin resistance is when your key (insulin) doesn’t work as well as it should. Sometimes it unlocks, and sometimes you have to go through a series of acrobatic hand movements to get the lock to open. Since glucose isn’t getting into your cells consistently, it means there is extra circulating in your blood, increasing your blood glucose, or blood sugar, which may lead to type 2 diabetes.There’s another thing that happens with insulin resistance. Your body can’t make enough insulin to compensate for the extra glucose. As a result, more glucose ends up circulating in your blood, which can damage your cells and lead to complications that affect your eyes, kidneys, and nerves, according to a 2019 study published in the journal Nature.2Excess body fatSo, what causes insulin resistance in the first place? The answer is complicated, and it doesn’t just happen overnight. But one of the main factors is excess body fat, which can cause inflammation throughout your body. That inflammation may then trigger a chain reaction that ultimately leads to insulin resistance and eventually type 2 diabetes, according to a 2015 study published in the journal Lipids in Health and Disease.3It’s important to note that not all people with type 2 diabetes are considered clinically overweight, and not all people who carry excess weight have type 2 diabetes.Your genes and how you grew upInheriting certain genes can increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. If you have one parent with type 2 diabetes, your risk increases by 40%, according to a 2015 study published in the journal Genes. If both parents have it, that risk jumps to 70%. And compared to the general population, you have a three-fold increased risk if you have a parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes.4
Back to topHow long do penile yeast infections last?This depends on how advanced the yeast infection is, how fast you treat it, and how well it responds to medication. If you treat the infection with over-the-counter meds, you’ll usually apply these for one to three weeks.2 Ideally, this will be enough to make the yeast infection go away for good. If that doesn’t do the trick, you’ll need to see your doctor for next steps and an updated timeline. You’ll most likely need to take a single dose of oral antifungal medication, or if symptoms are severe, two single doses, three days apart, according to the Mayo Clinic.Back to topAre penile yeast infections contagious?Practically speaking, yes, you can pass a yeast infection to another person through vaginal, anal, or oral sex, but it’s not really the same thing as an STI like gonorrhea or chlamydia. That’s because everyone naturally has Candida living on their bodies. With a transmitted yeast infection, though, it really comes down to how your body reacts to someone else’s overgrowth of yeast, according to Planned Parenthood.If you keep getting penile yeast infections and you aren’t sure why, it may be a good idea to talk to your partner about the symptoms you’ve been experiencing. A doctor can test both you and your partner for the presence of yeast and recommend treatments to help if they confirm that you’re passing an infection back and forth (which can turn into a vicious cycle quickly when left untreated).So, do you have to wait until the yeast infection is gone to have sex? Generally, that is the safest option, but it really depends on the underlying cause of your infection and your doctor’s advice. They will likely give you the green light once your physical symptoms have gone away.Back to topCan you tell the difference between a penile yeast infection vs. a UTI vs. an STI?A penile yeast infection can closely resemble other health problems, including a urinary tract infection (UTI) or various STIs, but there are a few key differences. For one, they are all caused by different things (fungus, bacteria, and viruses are all in the mix here), and so they each have varying treatments.While a penile yeast infection will usually cause intense itching and white spots on the skin of the penis, a urinary tract infection will not. A UTI may also present with a few extra symptoms like fever and a near-constant urge to pee even if not much comes out, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).An STI may be a little more difficult to differentiate, since a number of sexually transmitted infections can cause symptoms that overlap with those of a penile yeast infection, like pain while urinating or having sex, inflamed skin, and discharge. When in doubt, see your doctor who can perform a physical exam and order any needed testing—you’ll likely need prescribed treatment regardless of your diagnosis.Back to topHow can I prevent a penile yeast infection?Since hot, humid conditions encourage yeast to thrive, it’s especially important to wash the penis (and foreskin, if you have it) with mild soap, especially after exercise and in the summer when the skin tends to be sweatier. Also, try to make sure the area under your foreskin is dry to halt eager yeast growth in its tracks.2 (A gentle pat down with a towel is all you need here!) Wearing breathable athletic wear may also be helpful during workouts and the warmer months, and change out of those clothes immediately after getting sweaty. It may also help to use some antifungal spray or powder on your genital area in the morning if you’re going to be working outside in hot weather. And since certain health conditions can increase your risk for a penile yeast infection, taking steps to manage your condition, such as keeping your blood sugar levels in check in the case of diabetes, is crucial for your overall health (and for trying to keep the yeast overlords at bay).With that said, penile yeast infections can just happen sometimes. Thankfully, there are lots of effective medication options, some of which you can even get at your local pharmacy. Because complications can be even more of a pain to deal with, getting on top of treatment as quickly as possible is the best way to get your life (and penis) back to baseline.Back to topSources:International Journal of Preventive Medicine, Penile Inflammatory Skin Disorders and the Preventive Role of CircumcisionStatPearls, BalanitisInternational Journal of Dermatology, Urologic Dermatology: A Comprehensive Foray Into the Noninfectious Etiologies of BalanitisRelated:
If you use medical equipment like a wheelchair, orthotics, or braces due to multiple sclerosis, stroke, or an injury, it’s a good idea to check to make they still fit well and don’t look too worn down. If they do, they may be more likely to cause skin irritation and breakdown that triggers your spasticity.FatigueWhether it’s muscle fatigue or generally feeling wiped out, that so-tired-you-can’t-lift-your-head feeling can play a factor in spasticity. Fatigue is also closely connected with stress and illness, two other factors that can increase your spasticity risks, according to a 2013 study published in the American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.4 While we don’t know exactly why fatigue can trigger spasticity for some people, one 2015 study published in Physiotherapy Canada theorized that people may perceive the increased muscle stiffness from fatigue as a worsening of spasticity symptoms.4Stress and anxietySpeaking of stress, emotional stress, anxiety, depression, or overall changes in your mental health have a close connection to your physical health. If you have a sudden spike in your stress levels (say, your in-laws decide to stop by unannounced), this could be a trigger for your spasticity, possibly due to the increased muscle tension associated with high-stress situations.Fractured bonesIf you have a spinal cord injury or other condition that affects your ability to sense your extremities, a fracture (broken bone) can happen without you knowing it. An event as simple as hitting your foot against a door could lead to an undetected injury, Dr. Cabahug explains, which can then trigger spasticity. Again, any kind of irritation or change to the body can trigger spasms.Relapse or worsening of an underlying conditionSometimes increased spasticity can be a side effect from a condition progressing. For example, if you have MS and go through a period where your symptoms come back or become more intense, spasticity can flare, too. Spasticity can also become more pronounced after a recurrence, such as having another stroke.Pregnancy-related changesAs if pregnancy doesn’t come with enough curveballs, hormonal swings—not to mention the fatigue associated with pregnancy and overall body changes—can make spasticity worse.1 You can also experience spasticity in the postpartum period. As your hormones adjust to new levels, this can trigger muscle spasms, even if you didn’t have problems during your pregnancy.Menstrual cycle changesThis one seems to hit people with MS who were assigned female at birth especially hard. An estimated 69% of people assigned female at birth with relapsing-remitting MS noted their spasticity worsened immediately before and sometimes during their menstrual cycle, according to an article in the American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.5 Like pregnancy, the reason this happens likely has something to do with the change in hormone levels setting off the spasms.High humidity and extreme temperaturesWhile scorching hot days are no fun for anyone, people with certain nervous system disorders and spinal cord injuries may experience temperature dysregulation. This means your body may not recognize when it’s hot or cold. When it’s drafty, your nerves may not tell you to put on your Snuggie (is that still a thing?), and when it’s hot, you may not realize a sweater is a bit overkill. In the meantime, the temperature changes can wreak havoc on your body—triggering muscle spasms—without you even noticing.6 Why temperature changes trigger spasticity for some people isn’t entirely understood by experts, but it may have something to do with those hyperactive nerves.What causes sudden spasticity?Spasticity can come on so fast that you’re left reeling in pain, wondering exactly what happened. It’s usually due to one of three causes: Something has triggered your muscle spasms, your condition is progressing, or you have a condition that has gone undiagnosed or untreated.
Those who work with their hands are most likely to have the condition, such as farmers, manual laborers, massage therapists, and environmental services professionals.Why do flare-ups happen?Many of the potential causes for hand psoriasis are also triggers for the condition, but there are a few other things that can cause a flare-up. Pay special attention to seasonal changes, household work, laundry detergent, and stress, as these can all make hand psoriasis worse. (Seriously, does stress make anything better?) Another thing to consider is whether your nightly glass of wine has anything to do with psoriasis flare-ups. According to one 2019 study published in the journal Psoriasis, drinking alcohol has been linked to flare-ups in general, not just on the hands.4 On the physical stress side, some people experience psoriasis on their hands due to their occupation. Appropriately called occupational contact psoriasis, it causes flare-ups due to constant mechanical pressure on the skin from working with the hands as well as working with irritants. Drivers, cashiers, construction workers, dentists, and even pharmacists are at risk (due to frequent handling of bottle caps with a twisting motion), according to a 2020 study published in Occupational Dermatology.5 In this case, your job is causing the problem (but you probably knew that already).It’s tough when your livelihood is causing your hand psoriasis symptoms. Talk to your doctor or workplace if there may be adjustments that could reduce your flare-ups. Examples include protective gloves, padding tools, or re-assignment to a different job duty.If you have both eczema and psoriasis on the hands, your doctor may recommend allergy testing to help identify what could worsen your symptoms. Avoiding these allergens may help to minimize psoriasis flare-ups.How is hand psoriasis diagnosed?It would be really easy if doctors could take a skin sample and know without question what kind of skin issue you were dealing with. Of course, it’s unfortunately not that simple if you potentially have psoriasis on your hands.“While biopsies can help confirm psoriasis on other parts of the body, it’s not a good test when we are trying to differentiate it on the hands and feet,” Dr. Rosmarin explains. It’s really important to look at the symptoms, he says.That’s not to say that a doctor may not recommend taking a biopsy if they want to try another diagnostic option. There aren’t a lot of studies about the differences between eczema and palmar psoriasis under a microscope, but a smaller 2015 study published in The Journal of Dermatology found there were some key differences. These include white-to-gray scales for those with palmar psoriasis or brown-orange dots for those with hand eczema.6What are hand psoriasis treatments?You probably already know that psoriasis on the hands can be challenging to treat. While that can feel a little disheartening, know that there are still lots of options to try.“There are some treatments, such as certain topical creams or ointments, that can help with both psoriasis and eczema,” Dr. Rosmarin says. “The immune system is too active in the skin, so we have medicines that can tell the immune system to calm down.”You’ll likely try topicals first.Typically, the first-line treatment for psoriasis plaques on the hands is topical corticosteroids, which come in the form of anti-inflammatory creams, ointments, or gels. Sometimes, a doctor may recommend applying this with occlusion—this means wearing gloves or wrapping the hands, ideally to allow the medication to better penetrate. Other times, your dermatologist will recommend combining this medication with calcipotriene, an ointment that helps to slow skin cell growth.
Getting short of breath when exercisingHaving problems performing any kind of physical activityExperiencing swelling, also called edema, especially in their lower legsSome people with vaginas may also have symptoms that seem like an upper respiratory infection, such as wheezing, coughing, or being short of breath—so you may think these are symptoms of something like bronchitis when they’re actually heart failure symptoms. That’s why it’s important to reach out to a doctor if you find yourself out of breath frequently when doing things like walking up the stairs or on a short stroll to the mailbox.Heart failure complicationsHeart failure is a known cause of illness and death in people assigned female at birth.1 It’s true that most people with vaginas tend to develop heart failure at an older age than people with penises, but even if you’re on the younger side there are risks.1 The biggest one is experiencing heart failure symptoms that you don’t recognize as such. If you don’t take steps to treat it, the heart failure can worsen and potentially cause things like heart valve problems and kidney damage, or become fatal if left ignored.Mental health is another aspect that you’ll want to address. People with vaginas and heart failure are more likely to experience higher rates of depression than people with penises and heart failure. They also typically report worse quality of life, according to an article in the journal Clinical Cardiology.3What are heart failure treatments by stage?Now for the good news: You can definitely make changes to both prevent heart failure and to keep it from progressing to advanced stages. The power is (at least partially) in your hands.“The habits you develop now will affect your heart 10, 20, or 30 years down the road,” Dr. Shufelt says. “Such habits include getting regular exercise, eating a Mediterranean-style diet, not smoking, and not being around people who smoke.”Your doctor will consider your heart failure stage or your personal risks—like having diabetes or smoking—to make treatment recommendations. If you know you’re in a certain stage, talk to your doctor about making the changes that make the most sense for you.It’s important to note that treatment guidelines are based on the ACC/AHA stages, as the NYHA system does not provide this information.4Stage AHere’s where you’ve really got to take a look at the lifestyle factors that could hurt your heart. According to Penn Medicine, this means:Stop smoking if you smoke.Engage in regular exercise—ideally 150 minutes per week.Stop illegal drug use if you use drugs.Stop drinking or limit your alcohol intake to no more than two drinks a day for people with penises or one drink a day for people with vaginas.Seek treatments for high blood pressure or high cholesterol.Take stock of other lifestyle behaviors and try to eat a balanced diet, get restful sleep, and manage everyday stress.Stage BWhen you’re in stage B, your heart is affected. That’s why doctors will usually prescribe medicines to help protect your heart. These include angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors or angiotensin-receptor blockers (ARBs). Both of these medicine types help to relax veins and arteries, which is important because it helps get blood to all the various parts of your body. Think of it like this: You can move more water through a wider straw than a narrower one, and that’s exactly what these meds do for your blood.Stage CIf you reach stage C, your activity is likely limited by your heart failure symptoms, per Penn Medicine. You’ll usually get short of breath, cough, and may even have some swelling that keeps you from moving well. Your doctor may suggest the following treatment options:
HormonesEating foods that trigger symptomsMissing your medications (or taking the wrong dose)Drinking (especially too much)SmokingStomach bugsOTC drugsMoodLet’s take a closer look at these potential flare-up causes.HormonesYour period can bring on cramping and diarrhea, which can make it confusing to tell if it’s your UC or just that time of the month.“This is thought to be related to hormonal changes,” Tanvi Dhere, M.D., a gastroenterologist and Director of IBD at Emory Healthcare in Atlanta, tells SELF. For instance, some research suggests that spikes in estrogen can lead to worse symptoms in people with ulcerative colitis.2You might be wondering: How could this hormonal aspect potentially affect ulcerative colitis flare-ups during pregnancy? Unfortunately, it is possible to experience ulcerative colitis symptoms during pregnancy, and IBD that isn’t under control during pregnancy can actually potentially raise the risk of birth outcomes like premature labor.3 This is why experts recommend that people with ulcerative colitis who want to get pregnant only conceive when their disease is under control. If you are thinking of getting pregnant, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about the medicines you take so you can either get the all-clear to keep taking them or figure out whether other meds may be better.“Most of the medications, including many of the immunosuppressives that we use in IBD, are considered safe in pregnancy,” Dr. Dhere says. “There are a few that should be avoided. It is important to discuss this with your IBD care provider team prior to conception and to ensure that you have an open and honest relationship with them and have a treatment plan in place.”DietThe relationship between ulcerative colitis and diet is pretty complex and calls for much more research. But what’s clear is that many people with ulcerative colitis have trigger foods that can bring on flare-up symptoms or make an ulcerative colitis episode worse. Some common ulcerative colitis food triggers include:BeansBroccoliCabbageCarbonated drinksDairy productsHigh-fiber foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grainsNone of this is to say you absolutely can’t have any of these foods if you have ulcerative colitis. (And, in fact, you shouldn’t wholesale cut out a bunch of food groups in an effort to manage ulcerative colitis—at least not without medical guidance.) But if you start to notice consistent ulcerative colitis flare-up symptoms after eating or drinking certain items, it’s worth bringing up with your care team.Skipping your medications It’s easy to think that missing your medication here or there won’t impact your ulcerative colitis. But a medication holiday isn’t the kind of holiday you want to take. From app-based pill reminders to rewarding yourself with a fun activity every time you’re done with an injection, do whatever you need to do to remember to take your meds as prescribed.Drinking (especially too much) Excess alcohol consumption can worsen your symptoms. You may not have to skip it entirely, but it’s true that even alcohol in moderation can be hard for those with ulcerative colitis. Like many aspects of life with this condition, it may take some trial and error to figure out exactly what’s right for you here.SmokingSmoking can worsen symptoms of certain inflammatory bowel conditions, like Crohn’s disease, and make it harder for you to manage your condition. While research has shown that smoking can have a protective effect when it comes to the development and progression of ulcerative colitis, doctors say the harmful effects of smoking still don’t outweigh any potential benefits.4 Ask your doctor about treatments to help (like smoking cessation programs in your area and nicotine patches). You can also call the toll-free national smoking quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).Stomach bugs Gut infections can add insult to injury for those with ulcerative colitis. When you have an infection with stomach upset side effects, your ulcerative colitis can naturally flare up. Add that to the long list of reasons why it’s a good idea to do your best to avoid coming down with things like food poisoning or the stomach flu. (Wash your hands thoroughly, especially when doing food prep, cook food thoroughly, avoid others who are ill whenever possible, etc.) OTC pain relieversNon-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and naproxen sodium are go-tos for headaches, period pains, and more. But some NSAIDs can trigger ulcerative colitis flares. Making the swap to other kinds of pain relievers, like acetaminophen, can help.MoodAs if you didn’t already know, stress affects a whole host of bodily functions. Ulcerative colitis is no exception. Mood changes that stress you mentally can in turn stress you physically.