The Surprising Connection Between Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fatigue

The Surprising Connection Between Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fatigue
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Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fatigue

When it comes to rheumatoid arthritis, sore knees and stiff hips may be the first thing that comes to mind. However, there are invisible symptoms that can be just as troubling. Up to 75% of patients say they experience fatigue and other sleep issues.

That’s because rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic condition that affects your whole body rather than just your joints. Many experts believe that the fatigue is caused by antibodies that circulate through your blood and trigger inflammation.

This can create a troubling cycle where physical discomfort interferes with sleep and the lack of sleep makes physical discomfort more difficult to bear.

If you’re tired of rheumatoid arthritis holding you back, there are solutions. Learn more about lifestyle changes and medical treatments that can restore your energy…

1. Lifestyle Changes

Simple lifestyle changes can make rheumatoid arthritis easier to deal with.

See how self-care can help you manage fatigue and other symptoms:

  • Exercise regularly. How can you motivate yourself to work out when it’s a struggle just to stand up? Remember that physical training provides long-term relief as you strengthen your muscles, extend your range of motion, and brighten your mood.
  • Eat healthy. Choose foods that appear to have anti-inflammatory effects. That includes most fruits, vegetables, nuts, and fatty fish.
  • Stay hydrated. Fatigue is a common sign of dehydration. It’s especially important to drink enough water when you have a condition like rheumatoid arthritis that can intensify such symptoms.
  • Reorganize your home. Conserve your energy by making your home and office more user-friendly. Place items that you use frequently within easy reach. Buy a small cart with wheels for moving supplies from one room to another.
  • Prioritize sleep. While sleeping more may not eliminate fatigue, it can help. Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Keep your bedroom dark and quiet.

2. Psychological Changes

Your attitude also plays a major role in how rheumatoid arthritis affects your life.

See how transforming your outlook can boost your energy levels:

  • Lighten up. Treat yourself with compassion. You may need to cut back on your responsibilities so you can protect your health. Focus on your own abilities instead of trying to keep up with others.
  • Prepare for setbacks. Frequent and dramatic fluctuations are typical with rheumatoid arthritis. You’ll probably have easy days and times that are much more challenging. Give yourself permission to rest when you’re feeling under the weather.
  • Seek support. Even your closest family and friends may find it difficult to understand your fatigue. Look for support groups or online forums where you can meet others who share similar experiences.

3. Medical Treatment

New and more effective options for treating rheumatoid arthritis have been introduced during the past two decades. Following your doctor’s recommendations could help you to reduce the inflammation that causes fatigue.

Consider these strategies:

  • Change your prescription. There are now several categories of drugs for rheumatoid arthritis. Discuss the side effects with your doctor and ask about trying a different medication if you experience excessive fatigue.
  • Increase mobility. Physical therapy can increase your strength and overall fitness. Your doctor may be able to provide a referral, or you can find someone who specializes in rheumatoid arthritis through the American Physical Therapy Association.
  • Manage depression. Having rheumatoid arthritis doubles your risk for depression. Let your doctor and loved ones know if you need help. Medication and counseling have a high success rate.

While there is no current cure for rheumatoid arthritis, appropriate self-care and medical treatment can increase the quality of your life. Reduce fatigue so you can feel happier and return to doing the activities you love.