It is common for people with arthritis to experience high levels of fatigue – characterized by extreme tiredness and exhaustion. In this article we’ll explain what fatigue is, what causes it, and how you can manage it.
What is fatigue?
Fatigue is a feeling of weariness, but it’s more extreme than simple tiredness. It can affect you physically, making your limbs seem heavy and causing you to feel exhausted, but it can also affect your concentration and motivation. People who experience fatigue may find they struggle to do even small tasks. It often comes on for no clear reason and without warning.
Most of us feel tired after a long day, but people with a long-term medical condition such as arthritis can experience a tiredness that’s quite different in quality and intensity and which doesn’t always improve after rest. Fatigue can affect people with any type of arthritis, but it’s more common if you have one of the following conditions:
- Inflammatory arthritis – for example, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis
- Autoimmune diseases – for example, lupus, Behcet’s syndrome, scleroderma and Sjogren’s syndrome.
Fatigue can have a major impact on your life. It can force you to stop what you’re doing and rest, or make you change your plans. This can have a big effect on your ability to run your life or do the things that we all take for granted. When fatigue is severe, it can lead to feelings of complete exhaustion, or ‘wipe-out, when you have to sit or lie down to try to recover. This may be made worse by a lack of understanding from others about how much it affects you.
What causes it?
Many things may combine to cause fatigue, including the following:
- Active disease – Inflammation in the joints and other tissues can cause fatigue in people with inflammatory arthritis and autoimmune disease. Chemicals called cytokines, which are found in inflamed tissues, are similar to chemicals released in viral illnesses such as colds and flu, and they can cause extreme fatigue.
- Anaemia, which is often found with inflammation
- Other long-term conditions such as diabetes or thyroid disease
- Some drugs used to treat arthritis, which may cause drowsiness or loss of concentration
- Pain, especially if it’s long-term can wear you down
- Weak muscles (caused, for example, by inactivity due to pain), which mean you have to use more energy to do everyday tasks.
- Overdoing things or carrying on with activities for too long.
- Sleep disturbance as a result of pain, late nights or sleeping too much during the day.
- Stress and anxiety
- Low mood or depression
- Poor diet or hunger
How can I help myself?
Try the following tips to help reduce the impact that fatigue has on your life…..to read the full Arthritis Matters magazine article, please see the special offer below.
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