Fighting The Fatigue Of Ra
Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis dont stop at joint pain and swelling. Most people with RA also experience mental and physical exhaustion, a symptom known as fatigue. Studies show that up to 80% of people with RA have at least some sense of feeling run down, and more than 50% have high levels of fatigue.
Terence Starz, MD, a rheumatologist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, says the feeling can be described as overwhelming or different from just being tired because it is extreme and seems to come from nowhere. In fact, fatigue may have a greater impact on daily life than pain.
S For Improving Your Sleep
There are many reasons why a person with RA may not be getting enough sleep, from stress to depression to joint pain. You can work with your doctor to determine the cause of sleep problems. There are a variety of solutions for sleep problems, depending on the specific problem.
Sleep hygiene is an important part of getting a good nights rest. Some ways to improve your sleep may include:5
- Avoid alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine because they can disrupt sleep
- Go to bed and get up at about the same time every day
- Get some exercise during the day, when possible
- Make your bedroom cool, dark, and comfortable
- Turn off your computer, cell phone, and television
- Follow a bedtime ritual to signal your body that it is time to sleep
You Might Be Aware Of Joint Pain But Its Important To Be Aware Of The Other Ra Symptoms That Can Help Clinch A Diagnosis
Aches and pains are a common part of life at every age, and can occur for many reasons an especially tough workout, too much snow shoveling, lifting something the wrong way, dancing too enthusiastically, or engaging in repetitive hand motions like typing or knitting.;
But pain is also the most common symptom of rheumatoid arthritis , a chronic, inflammatory disorder in which the bodys own immune system attacks the lining of the membranes that surround the joints. According to the American College of Rheumatology, RA;;is the most common type of autoimmune arthritis, affecting more than 1.3 million Americans 75 percent of whom are women. The disease usually strikes first between the ages of 30 and 60.
The symptoms of RA may be obvious or not, and can sometimes mimic other diseases, especially in the early stages. The most common symptoms of RA such as pain, swelling, and tenderness around the joints tend to come on gradually. People may discount minor pains or;morning achiness as just a sign of aging or indication of an overuse injury. It may take a while before someone suspects that RA is the cause of their discomfort. But rheumatoid arthritis has many other symptoms as well, and recognizing what they are can help patients get diagnosed and treated as early as possible, so they can prevent or minimize permanent damage to the joints, and lead active, less-painful lives.;
Talking To Your Doctor About Fatigue
There are several things that can reduce the impact of fatigue. Firstly, it helps if you can work out what could be causing it.
There arent any specific tests for fatigue. However, you can help your doctors diagnosis by writing down how you feel, what could be causing it and how its affecting your life. They may also be able to provide you with a self-assessment questionnaire to fill out.
Depending on your symptoms your doctor may recommend you have blood tests to check your fatigue hasnt been caused by another condition. If it has been, treating this condition may improve your fatigue.
There arent any specific drug treatments for fatigue. However, your doctor, physiotherapist, occupational therapist or rheumatology team, should be able to help you recognise the signs and learn to manage them.
Be Aware Of Medication Side Effects
While it is necessary for most arthritis patients to take medications to treat pain and other symptoms, drowsiness is a common side effect of many of these drugs. Pain medications, some NSAIDs, DMARDs, and tricyclic antidepressants are among the medications that list drowsiness as a known side effect. If the medications are part of a daily regimen, drowsiness may add to already-present fatigue.
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How Do These Struggles Compare The Symptoms Of Rheumatoid Arthritis
If you can relate to these situations, then you can begin to understand what it feels like to have Rheumatoid Arthritis .
While it does involve “arthritis”, or joint pain, it’s the “rheumatoid” that gives the disease its defining characteristics. Rheumatoid Arthritis is a systemic , autoimmune disease that affects the joints, connective and soft tissues, and sometimes organs.
Most patients will describe the symptoms as:
Dealing with an Injury. It causes pain similar to a sprained or broken body part, and comparable to the physical trauma felt after an accident. At times the inflammation and soreness is so intense a brace or other movement assistance equipment is necessary to perform even simple tasks, similar to wearing a sling or cast after an injury. And like a person who has taken a bad tumble, they may or may not actually look injured other than a slight limp or other internal physical struggles, but it does not mean they aren’t experiencing disability.
Helping People Around You Understand Fatigue
Fatigue is a major symptom of many conditions, such as arthritis often its as much of a problem as pain and inflammation. But its an invisible symptom and a lot of people avoid talking about it because they think their family, friends and colleagues wont understand.
It can be stressful if you think people around you dont understand how youre feeling. Even when you explain, some people may struggle to realise how fatigue affects you and that it stops you doing certain activities. This can be frustrating and tiring and can put a big strain on your relationships. Getting help, support and understanding from the people around you can make a huge difference.
Good communication and explaining clearly and calmly how fatigue affects you is important to help others understand.
Its ok to say that you need help with tasks around the home.
Learning to say you cant do something or go somewhere because of the way it will affect you can help. It may also reassure people that sometimes you just dont feel up to socialising and its no reflection on their company.
If people ask for your help with something, remember its ok to say no. Its ok to put yourself first.
If you find it difficult to talk about your fatigue, you could ask people to read this information.
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Relating To The Mental Struggles Of Ra
But Rheumatoid Arthritis patients are not just affected by the physical disabilities, they also must deal with the mental struggles that accommodate a chronic illness.
The disease is unpredictable, flaring at any time of the day or night without warning.
Imagine if your flu continued to resurface every few days, indefinitely, or you woke up in the morning already feeling like you had just run a marathon?
What if your injury never healed, and it began to spread to a dozen or more additional places in your body?
With Rheumatoid Arthritis, every day becomes a constant manipulation of tasks, which can weigh heavily on both those who have the disease as well as those whose lives are affected because of it.
Managing both the physical and emotional effects of RA can be taxing and frustrating, but if the patient finds a solid support system it can make a big difference in their ability to cope.
Load Up On Plant Foods
Fruits and veggies, whole grains, legumes these are the kinds of foods that help to naturally fight inflammation, boost energy, and help you maintain a healthy weight. Carrying extra pounds can make you feel even more sluggish and make arthritis symptoms worse.
Spinach and tomatoes are good choices to fight inflammation; so are dark berries, which contain natural energy bullets, says Dr. Schiopu. Include lean protein and a little healthy fat in every plate, and eat regularly for a steady stream of energy throughout the day. Also: Drink lots of water. Dehydration can contribute to fatigue.
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Is Sleep A Factor
Some studies report an apparent association between the number of sleep problems one has and the level of fatigue. However, other studies indicate that a relationship between sleep problems and fatigue isnt significant.
This means that a person with RA can get enough sleep, or even quality sleep, and still experience fatigue.
Whats known is that fatigue can impact prognosis and it also seems that lifestyle changes can help people better cope with and manage fatigue.
A study published in August stated that Fatigue is a key contributor to increased clinical care costs, primary care consultations, and employment loss. Despite this, our understanding of the prognostic of factors of poor fatigue outcomes is lacking and fatigue is poorly managed.
The available data appears to implicate generic factors such as pain, mental health, disability, and sleep as consistent predictors of fatigue outcome while the role of disease activity and inflammation seems less clear, the study authors wrote. However, the existing data are not without methodological limitations and there have been no specific studies primarily designed to investigate the inflammatory biomarkers of fatigue.
The researchers also found that broad factors such as disability, mood, and pain appear to amplify or drive fatigue in people with rheumatoid arthritis.
Fatigue also plays a role in a persons ability to keep working.
Another vicious cycle is that of exercise.
Its Not Just My Ra That Makes Me Feel Unwell
It has been shown that many people with RA dont take their treatment as prescribed because of side effects including: 7,8
- Hair loss
- Skin rashes
This can result in reduced disease control and increased pain or other symptoms.9,10 People living with RA should speak with their doctor about their options.
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Eat Breakfast Every Day
Your mother likely harped on this when you were a small child. Guess whatMom was right. When you first wake up, your blood sugar is low. Eating a proper breakfast can serve as an energy booster. Skipping breakfast drains your energy, contributing to the fatigue problem. It’s important to eat nutritiously at every meal but focus on breakfast to start your day off right.
Schedule Naps Into Your Day If You Can
Renee A., 40, says that her fatigue comes in spurts. Some days, I wake up feeling like I can conquer the world; other days I wake up feeling like a Mack truck hit me, she says. Its very difficult and it requires a lot of mental fortitude. Renee home-schools her three children and says she sometimes holds lessons in her bedroom or on the couch, which allows her to rest. If Renee doesnt take time to nap or even sit for a while, then her fatigue and other rheumatoid arthritis symptoms flare up and she feels much worse, she says. I have learned that the hard way, Renee says.
If you dont work from home, or if your schedule is packed with Zoom meetings and tight deadlines, then you may not be able to nap whenever you feel exhausted. However, if you can, lying down even for a few minutes after work may be helpful. Creaky Joints volunteer Eileen D., 35, says taking a short nap can make a big difference in her energy levels. Sometimes I need to have a quick rest. Just 20 minutes can be a lifesaver, she tells SELF. Sleeping for too long can make you feel groggyand make fatigue worseso its a good idea to nap for 1020 minutes, according to the Mayo Clinic.
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Recognizing Rheumatoid Arthritis Fatigue
Some of the more common reasons fatigue is often underestimated and left untreated include:
Because of the above reasons, researching, recognizing and treating fatigue is difficult.5
However, patients who experience chronic fatigue are advised to report it to their health care provider as it should be addressed as part of their overall treatment plan.
Talk About How Youre Feeling
Fatigue can make you feel low or depressed. Talking about how you feel can really help. Dont keep your feelings to yourself. Try to talk to a member of your healthcare team, members of a support group, your family or friends.
There are things that can help if youre feeling low. Your healthcare team may recommend a talking therapy, such as cognitive behaviour therapy also known as CBT. You can do it as one-to-one or group sessions.
Talking therapies aim to help people change the way they see their condition and any negative feelings towards it. Sessions, led by trained therapists, can help people change the way they react to and feel about their condition by making positive changes to the way they think and behave.
NHS England has a dedicated programme called Improving Access to Psychological Therapies, known as IAPT. It aims to connect people with anxiety and depression to local talking therapy services. You can refer yourself to this service by visiting the NHS England website and searching for IAPT or ask a health professional to refer you.
Joining a support group for people living with similar conditions can help you talk openly about your problems with people in similar situations. They may also be able to share tips on how to get around some of your problems.
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Fatigue: An Unwelcome Symptom Of Rheumatoid Arthritis
I recently read an article about fatigue that I would like to share, it is the best explanation that I have found, of what I experience with my fatigue.
The article is called Fatigue: RAs Inconvenient Truth by Sara Nash, Health Guide, and was published April 29, 2009*. Here are a couple of excerpts:
Sometimes, you just know its going to be one of those days. You have a million things planned that you need to get done, but you wake up that morning, and right away you know your RA has a different agenda.You go through the motions telling yourself youll feel better as the day goes on. You get ready. Maybe you even make it to work, but like a tire that has been punctured, what little energy you had steadily seeps out until suddenly, you are so profoundly tired that you cant even hold yourself up in your chair any longer. ;And thats it your day is over. Off to bed you go.
Or how about this: You dont feel great, but youve felt worse, so you try to get on with things. Mentally, your mind is active and alert, aware of all that needs to be done, but your body feels like it is moving through a thick fog of inertia that you just cant shake. You try to get extra sleep. You eat especially well. You exercise, hoping to burn off the fog fatigue surrounding you, but to no avail. Youre stuck in it until it decides to lift, which could take days or even weeks. Too bad if you had other plans.
What causes fatigue?
Rearrange Your Kitchen Counter
A simple natural way to prevent fatigue: Put everything you use often within easy reach. Then do the same in your bathroom and bedroom. Set up your home to make life a little easier on you, particularly on the more difficult days, say experts.
And use specialized assistive tools throughout the day zipper pulls, gripping tools, electric can openers, and long shoe horns can all help conserve energy and ease pain.
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How Can I Help Myself
There are a number of things you can do to help manage your fatigue.
Planning your time wisely to spread your energy over the course of a day or week can help. Its also important to factor some gentle exercise into your day and to have a healthy diet.
Theres a strong link between getting enough good quality sleep and fatigue. And there are several positive steps you can take to improve your chances of sleeping well.
Stress and worry can make your fatigue feel worse, so its a good idea to spot anything that is causing you stress and try to deal with them in good time.
- The four Ps
- Get a good nights sleep
- Talk about how youre feeling
- Stress and anxiety
- Helping people around you understand fatigue
- At work
- Eat a healthy diet
Break Plans And Say No
The emotional and physical energy you use when dealing with RA fatigue can take its toll. Early on, rest is usually more appropriate, Dr. Goodman says, especially if the disease is not yet under control. Even after your RA is better managed, make sure to listen to your body, take breaks when needed, and dont overdo it. Acceptance of your condition, and its limitations, is key when coping with a long-term illness. But if your fatigue is interfering with your job, your ability to stay awake throughout the day, or your overall quality of life, let your doctor know. You may need to tweak your medication regimen or try different physical and occupational therapies to find techniques that will work for you to better handle RA fatigue.
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