If you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, you probably know how exhausting arthritis-related fatigue can be. In fact, chronic fatigue in rheumatoid arthritis patients is a problem doctors struggle to understand. Experts suggest that this is a systemic exhaustion that affects the whole body rather than a certain part.
However, chronic fatigue has a wide range of causes including anemia, hypothyroidism, depression, and sleep apnea. Given that depression is common in people with rheumatoid arthritis, it can impact energy levels as well. Moreover, depression can exacerbate other RA symptoms. Other reasons for fatigue might include poor sleep (which is also common among RA patients) and side effects provoked by medications.
To fight chronic fatigue, it’s important to know its triggers. Once you’ve found them, you can start working with your health care provider to eliminate it. Here are some good tips that can help you combat constant fatigue:
1. Improve your sleep
Good sleep involves healthy sleep habits. This means you need to avoid napping during the day in order to sleep well at night. Also, keep your bedroom dark and quiet and avoid alcohol, caffeine, and heavy meals in the evening. Another important thing you should incorporate into your sleeping routine is going to bed and waking up at the same time every day.
2. Consider talking to your doctor about inflammation management
Since rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition it’s always accompanied by systemic inflammation. This type of inflammation is extremely exhausting to your body. Rheumatoid arthritis causes the cells to produce proteins called cytokines which are responsible for inflammation. These proteins can have a direct impact on brain receptors leading to fatigue. Therefore, it’s essential to talk to your rheumatologist about how to manage overall inflammation.
3. Try cognitive behavioral therapy
Suffering from an autoimmune and insidious health condition is always exhausting in itself. This can affect your emotional health and even provoke severe depression which, in turn, boosts chronic fatigue. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a type of psychotherapy that can teach you to get rid of negative thinking while helping you to manage your problems.
According to a study published in May 2017 in the Journal Current Opinion in Rheumatology, arthritis-induced fatigue might occur due to depression or other causes outside the disease itself. So, one of the best methods to reduce fatigue is to eliminate depression, and cognitive behavioral therapy can be effective.
Rheumatoid arthritis can make it complicated to get moving. However, being inactive can worsen your fatigue. In fact, most rheumatoid arthritis sufferers feel energized after exercise. To start exercising, visit a therapist who will choose the best exercises for you. They might also recommend cycling, walking, or swimming.
5. Ask your doctor about meds for fatigue
Depending on the underlying causes of your fatigue, the health care provider may prescribe medications that will help you fight it. Modafinil is a nootropic that increases resistance to fatigue and improves mood but you should use this drug with caution since once you begin taking them, it might be difficult to stop.
Tramadol is a pain medication that has been shown to boost sleep in people with rheumatoid arthritis. Your doctor might also prescribe you a low-dose antidepressant before bedtime, as it can relieve pain, improve sleep, and lower fatigue in some RA patients.
Keep in mind that the results of your treatment depend on you, so, make sure you learn as much as you can about your condition and work with your health provider and care team to manage fatigue properly. This will allow you to get your energy back and live a normal life.