Chronic Fatigue: The Ultimate Enemy of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Some would define fatigue as feeling tired, but it is so much more. It is a deep feeling of being overtired and lacking in the desire to do anything but sleep. And even sleep might not be enough.
Fatigue can also be the inability to get enough sleep to diminish the sense of feeling tired, thereby triggering other symptoms, such as mood swings, that can have a negative impact on quality of life.
Around 40-90% of individuals with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) experience chronic fatigue. You may get an average night’s sleep of 8 hours and still wake up feeling exhausted. This exhaustion can affect both your mental and physical health, leading you to constantly feel frustrated and helpless. Unfortunately, fatigue sometimes takes a back seat to other issues when you have RA.
Some of the most common reasons why fatigue is taken too lightly and often left untreated include the following:
- You may rate fatigue as less important in comparison to other symptoms you may be experiencing, such as pain or the inability to perform everyday tasks.
- You may have a hard time describing fatigue because symptoms may be subtle or you simply believe you need to accept it as a part of your daily life.
- You may prioritize other medical issues, such as managing joint pain and restricting joint damage, over fatigue.
- You may underestimate the effect of fatigue because it can occur when RA is kept clinically under control.
While there is no quick and easy approach to overcoming chronic fatigue, its effects can often be controlled with a multipronged approach that includes both medical therapy and lifestyle changes. Your doctor may order lab tests to check for any nutritional deficiencies, anemia, and liver function. He or she may also examine you for sleep apnea or depression, both of which can trigger chronic fatigue. Generally, you may be offered a few suggestions tailored to your individual situation, including:
- Changing your diet and exercise routine
- Adjusting your medications
- Testing for and treating other underlying medical issues
- Prioritizing and streamlining tasks
- Seeking therapy and emotional support
Changing your diet and exercise routine
Every individual is advised to maintain a healthy diet and weight, as well as to exercise regularly. This advice is especially crucial if you are suffering from RA and chronic fatigue. While you may find it difficult to stay active with painful joints and fatigue, moderate physical activity, such as walking, can help to restore your energy levels. Moreover, consider:
- Maintaining a well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy
- Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day
- Limiting your intake of caffeine
- Avoiding energy drinks or energy supplements because most of them contain caffeine and other natural stimulants
While eating foods rich in nutrients and exercising on a regular basis may not help you to overcome chronic fatigue altogether, it can help to minimize its effects. Within time, you should begin to see a positive change in your everyday energy levels.
Read on to learn more about managing fatigue associated with rheumatoid arthritis.