Hi Mortified....your question is a good one....unfortunately, I'm afraid you're not going to like the answer.
Lupus flares are about as unpredictable as Lupus itself. If your Lupus is active and causing you plenty of health issues, then you are going to have flares that come and go. During phases of very active Lupus, where the disease is wreaking havoc all over your body, your flares can come on without warning and cause you to endure many symptoms at a time. Then they can suddenly end, just like that. Then you might go a few weeks flare free or even a month or two. Or during active Lupus times, you might feel like you are in a mild flare all the time...you might feel like it never actually goes away.
There really is no way to predict how often someone will flare or how long it will last, because every single person with Lupus is different in how the disease manifests itself in their body.
In my situation, I spent about the first 5 years after diagnosis very, very sick, and in and out of flares constantly. I spent countless hours in the ER and hundreds of hospital stays. I remember being just devastated and very depressed over this and wondering if it was going to be that way for the rest of my life. Then, just as quickly as Lupus flares could come on, mine stopped. For whatever reason, it stopped attacked my internal organs and seemed to settle down and allow me some normalcy in my life. For me, I believe that part of the reason for that was because of the excellent Specialist I had. He was very patient (even though I wasn't) and thorough in his investigation through lab tests, keeping track of my symptom list, experiementing with and adjusting different medications to see what worked well with my body. He explained to me early on, that we were a team and we needed to work well together to evaluate many different factors in my Lupus and to try to find the things that worked for me to try to send my Lupus into remission and keep it that way.
It surely wasn't an easy process, nor a quick one, but eventally it paid off. Things seemed to click when we found the right combination of Prednisone and Imuran at the correct dosages to suppress my immune system enough to quiet down my Lupus. Then we spent the next few years keeping a close watch on any little symptom that appeared and trying to head it off before it caused the inflammation process within my body to start again. During those few years, I was able to succesfully go back to work and work full time for about 10 years.
I managed to make it through 2 successful pregnancies flare free and have now been in a strong, lasting remission for about the last 15 or 16 years. An accomplishment which I celebrate each and every day.
So, I guess the answer to your question is that flares are going to come on unpredictably, last as long as there is active disease going on in your body, and then end when the inflammation process is over. And, unfortunately you just have to ride them out. For me, I did notice that if I tried very hard to do ALL the right things to take care of myself...like eating healthy, getting more than enough sleep, taking my meds, trying to exercise, even minimally, making sure I saw my doctor regularly, my flares did not seem to be as intense. I was never sure though that what I was doing was affecting the length of my flares...there's honestly no way to know that for sure. I can tell you that there were 2 things that I'm sure affected how bad my flares would get, and that was stress and the sun. Those 2 things I am positive are the strongest triggers for a flare and can definitely affect how severe it will be. When I finally gave up on going out in the sun AT ALL, and I altered my life to avoid as much severe stress as possible, I began to have fewer and fewer flares and finally went into remission.
Mortified, I don't want you to get discouraged after reading this and think that there's no answer for your question. It's just that the answer to 'your' particular Lupus flares will be entirely your own. It's really one of those unpredictable things in life that you just have to wait and see how it plays out. But do not give up hope that one day your Lupus will quiet down and you will have a strong and lasting remission of your own. I am here to let others know that it CAN and DOES happen!
I'll be praying for it to happen for you.....
p.s. for the record, I'm a 27 year veteran.