An estimated 1.5 million Americans suffer from rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
RA is an inflammatory condition that affects the immune system. It can have troublesome symptoms beyond just joint stiffness and pain.
One of these conditions is chronic fatigue. How does rheumatoid arthritis cause fatigue? How can you manage rheumatoid arthritis fatigue?
Why Does Rheumatoid Arthritis Cause Fatigue?
The largest symptom of RA is swelling and pain in the joints. This inflammation can also leave you feeling worn out and completely drained of energy.
Additionally, RA is a chronic pain condition. Chronic pain is frequently associated with depression and lethargy. All of this can lead to chronic fatigue.
RA can also lead you to toss and turn throughout the night. Having trouble sleeping will affect your daily energy levels.
The Effects of Chronic Fatigue
Chronic fatigue can feel absolutely devastating. Some common symptoms of chronic fatigue include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Worsening memory
- Changes in mood or behavior
- Sore throat
- Unexplained muscle or joint pain
- Your limbs feeling heavy or difficult to move
- Enlarged lymph nodes, usually in the neck or arms
- Unrefreshing or restless sleep
- Dizziness that worsens upon sitting or laying down
- Extreme exhaustion after exercise
All of these symptoms can lead to problems in your daily life. Some troubles you may face because of chronic fatigue can include:
- Social isolation
- Lifestyle restrictions
- Excess of absences from work or school
Many people with RA struggle to participate in regular life or must do so at a reduced capacity. Because of this, you may have to change your goals or move at a slower pace.
Talking to others with RA or chronic fatigue can also help you to feel less alone. Though things may be a bit more difficult, it is still possible to live a healthy and fulfilling life.
How to Treat Fatigue From Rheumatoid Arthritis
Often, the fatigue that comes with RA does not improve with rest alone. Luckily, there are plenty of RA fatigue solutions that may work for you.
Before starting any treatment program, you should consult an RA doctor in Elkridge, Maryland. They can help you discover what will work for you.
The most effective way to fight fatigue from RA is to make certain lifestyle changes. These may include:
Change Your Diet
The foods you eat are critical to providing you with energy. Fresh, whole foods will provide you with the most fuel. Lean protein, fruits and veggies, healthy fats, and dairy products are all essential to getting the energy you need.
Additionally, certain foods are great for easing inflammation in the joints and elsewhere. Foods containing high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids, such as nuts or cold-water fish, are particularly good for fighting inflammation.
Eating smaller meals throughout the day can also help to provide you with more energy. Large meals can cause you to feel tired and sluggish.
A good, filling breakfast is also a great way to give you an energy boost as soon as you wake up. High-fiber cereals, fresh fruits, hard-boiled eggs, yogurt, and low-fat milk are all great foods to start your day with.
Drink More Water
Staying hydrated is key to preventing fatigue. In some cases, fatigue is just a sign that you are under-hydrated.
Be sure to drink plenty of water. Ask your doctor how much water you should be drinking, as amounts can vary depending on your body weight, activity levels, and climate.
Remember to drink more water when engaging in physical activity or in extremely warm weather.
Fix Your Sleeping Habits
RA can cause you to toss and turn, resulting in poor sleep hygiene. There are ways you can help your body regulate sleep so you can feel more rested each day.
Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day. You should also try to avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol. These can all disrupt your sleeping patterns.
You should also avoid using your smartphone or tablet at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Light, especially blue light, can lead to lighter, more restless sleep.
Try Natural Treatments, Such as Acupuncture
People have used acupuncture to treat various ailments for at least 2,500 years. By poking a fine needle into certain “acupoints,” acupuncture may help to ease the pain associated with RA. By reducing this pain, there is a higher likelihood of reducing chronic fatigue, as well.
Evidence suggests that acupuncture works by targeting nerve clusters and activating them. This then sends signals to the brain that result in the production of endorphins, the pain-relieving hormone.
Though acupuncture can’t prevent joint inflammation, there is some evidence that it can help to reduce it and the pain that comes with it.
Incorporate a New Exercise Routine, Like Yoga
Exercise can help to ease tension and pain in your joints. Though it can be difficult to motivate yourself to work out when you are feeling fatigued, it can be incredibly helpful.
Aerobic exercises, which get your heart rate up, help to banish fatigue. Stretching routines, like yoga, can help to reduce pain and inflammation by stretching the joints.
Incorporating exercise into your daily routine also helps to boost your mood.
You should start exercising gradually. A brisk walk for 30 minutes each day is a great place to start, and easy on your joints. Water aerobics and yoga are also gentle on the joints and great at relieving stress.
Even on days when you feel really tired, you should try to at least do a gentle stretching routine to keep your joints mobile.
IV Therapy and Other Medical Intervention
Sometimes simple lifestyle changes are not enough to manage the fatigue that comes with RA. In this case, more serious medical intervention might be a requirement.
Your doctor may prescribe certain medications or vitamins to help treat the symptoms of RA. In some cases, psychoactive medications may be necessary to help boost energy levels and ease the psychological symptoms that may occur with RA, such as depression.
Some patients with RA may have difficulty taking or swallowing oral medication. Alternatively, these oral medications may not deliver the desired results. In this case, IV therapy may be the perfect treatment option.
Intravenous, or IV, therapy involves injecting medication directly into the bloodstream, allowing it to work faster.
- Relief from pain, swelling, or stiffness
- Ability to perform daily activities without difficulty
- Slowing down or preventing the development of bone and joint damage
- Reducing fatigue
The length of infusion sessions will depend upon your specific symptoms and the severity of your illness. Typically, results can last anywhere from 6 months to a year.
Managing the Psychological Symptoms of RA
Many people can feel depression or anxiety because of their reduced ability to participate in daily life. Though treating other physical symptoms of RA may help ease these symptoms, you can tackle psychological symptoms directly.
Managing your symptoms starts with having realistic expectations for yourself. Other ways to cope with your chronic illness include:
Try Not to Feel Guilty
People who do not suffer from RA or other chronic illnesses probably won’t understand how you feel. Trust that you aren’t lazy, no matter how other people might make you feel.
Rheumatoid arthritis can be an exhausting condition. You may have to rest at certain times instead of going out. You might have to leave a function early.
All of these are normal and necessary to care for your body. You can set your own pace, and you should try not to feel guilty about this.
On days where your fatigue is higher than usual, go gentle on yourself. It is important to understand that fatigue is a part of your condition, and even with other treatments it may come and go. Do not be too hard on yourself.
Take Plenty of Breaks
Though you may feel like staying in bed all day, this is not necessarily the best way to handle your condition. Instead, take small breaks throughout the day. Naps, laying down, or taking a moment to watch an episode of TV may be necessary.
Try to schedule your breaks to fit into your day. If you’re more productive in the morning, take a rest in the afternoon. Two or three rest periods a day can help you to manage your fatigue.
Don’t Be Afraid of Therapy
Just as a physical doctor is important, a therapist or psychological doctor can help with troublesome feelings you may be having. Any chronic illness can be difficult to cope with, but help is out there.
Don’t Let RA Stop You From Living
Rheumatoid arthritis and fatigue often go hand-in-hand. And now that you know the answer to “how does rheumatoid arthritis cause fatigue,” you can tackle the symptoms and continue having a full, fun-filled life.
If you’re looking for rheumatoid arthritis treatment in Elkridge Maryland, schedule a consultation with our team. When you talk to a rheumatoid arthritis doctor in Mt. Airy Maryland or Elkridge, you set yourself up to live each day to the fullest.