Is There Really Any Connection Between Arthritis and Fatigue?

Editor's Note: This article has been recently updated with latest information and research studies.
 
Q: I’m a RA patient. Whole day, I just want to sleep and do nothing. I feel like I’m alone in this world. Why is this happening to me? Is there really any connection between my RA and fatigue?? What should I do now??
Expert Answer
Women Experience Fatigue

All people experience fatigue. Many people feel exhausted or sluggish especially after they’ve had a long day or engaged in strenuous physical activity. Usually after a day or two of rest and relaxation their bodies return back to normal, and they feel fine. When you have arthritis however you feel a different kind of fatigue. Your body is intensely tired, you feel heavy, and you still feel that way even after extended periods of rest. If this is the case for you, you could have inflammatory arthritis, an autoimmune disease, or fibromyalgia.

Signs of Fatigue

Fatigue is a mental state of being tired and weak. When you are fatigued, your limbs feel heavy and moving to do small tasks takes a great amount of effort. You may display exhaustion similar to the kind you would have if you had the flu. Another sign is a large drop in your energy level and focus.

Signs of Fatigue

Kinds of Fatigue

Physical fatigue is the more commonly known type of fatigue that people experience, but mental fatigue is just as common. Usually the two go hand-in-hand, and if you are experiencing physical fatigue, you are feeling mental fatigue as well. Just as physical fatigue decreases* your ability to perform physically, mental fatigue decreases* your ability to perform mentally. Those experiencing mental fatigue feel tired and cannot seem to concentrate and exercise their thoughts properly. Another type of fatigue is emotional fatigue, which makes people irritable and emotional. People experiencing emotional fatigue are prone to mood swings or outbursts. None of those kinds of fatigue are the same as chronic fatigue syndrome, which is a symptom related to arthritis. You should be able to get treatment or help in order to manage any sort of fatigue you might have.

Impact of Fatigue on Your Life

There is no exact or precise way to measure fatigue, but you can ask your doctor to help you manage the fatigue you are experiencing. You can try to assess the level of your fatigue by rating on a scale the following: the severity of your fatigue, the level of stress caused by your fatigue, your physical and mental tiredness, your ability to cope with your fatigue, and level of effect you think your fatigue has on your life.

Kinds of Fatigue

Don’t be afraid to admit that fatigue is affecting your daily life. Experts say that 10% of people suffer from persistent tiredness and one in every 5 claim* that their fatigue is severe and interferes with their daily life. Fatigue can prevent you from performing the tasks you need to do and can interfere with plans you made ahead of time. It can make you too tired and exhausted to the point where you feel as though you need to lie down and rest before you can carry on with your day.

Causes of Fatigue

There are many factors that can contribute to your feelings of fatigue, but here are some of the common causes that you can consider.

Active Diseases, Conditions, and Treatments – Disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation, lupus, fibromyalgia, diabetes, or cancer can cause feelings of fatigue. Such illnesses and conditions release chemicals and viruses such as colds and flus that cause physical fatigue. They also contribute to a weakened immune system that makes your body susceptible to things that cause physical strain.

Drugs and Medication

Drugs and Medication

Many drugs used to treat* various sicknesses have side effects that cause fatigue. Antidepressants, antihistamines, and steroids can cause feelings of sluggishness, decrease* your concentration, and make you feel light-headed. Studies in the Archives of Internal Medicine have proven* that many prescription statin medications used to treat* low cholesterol can cause fatigue.

Irregular Sleep Cycles

Irregular Sleep Cycles

Those with sleep problems such as sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and insomnia commonly suffer from fatigue. Disturbances in your sleep cause you anxiety and stress, which can lead to fatigue. This can be caused not only by sleeping disorders such as the ones mentioned above, but also jetlag, working late, or constant disturbances such as a crying baby or loud noises. Alternatively, too much sleep or extended periods of sleep during the day can also cause fatigue.

Bad Nutrition

Individuals who are overweight or underweight are more likely to experience fatigue than someone who is healthy and physically fit.

Obese people are exerting extreme amount of work on their bodies and are also more prone to other diseases. Underweight people often lack strength and can get tired easily. Eating the right kind of food is important in order to give your body the strength it needs.

Depression and Mental Health Issues

Fatigue is common for those who are depressed or suffer from mental illnesses such as eating disorders, substance abuse, or anxiety. All these things can stress and makes any individual suffering from them more prone to fatigue. Your body deals with stress by releasing adrenaline to combat whatever crisis you are facing. If you are constantly stressed, your body is continuously at work, which causes exhaustion. Depression is very draining and already reduces* energy levels.

Depression and Mental Health Issues

Chronic Pain – If you experience constant and persistent pain, it is only natural that your body will feel drained and exhausted. It can cause your muscles to weaken, which puts more strain on your joint causing more fatigue.

Dealing with Fatigue

Try to identify what is causing your fatigue then determine ways to help you manage or reduce* it. Speak to a doctor about the problems you are having and ask for help in pinpointing the cause of coming up with a solution. Don’t self-medicate without seeking professional help first and never let your fatigue prevent you from living your life.

ConsumerHealthDigest Medical References:

  • Kirwan JR, Minnock P, Adebajo A, et al. Patient perspective: fatigue as a recommended patient centered outcome measure in rheumatoid arthritis. J Rheumatol 2007; 34:1174–7.
  • Repping-Wuts H, Hewlett S, van Riel P, et al. Fatigue in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: British and Dutch nurses’ knowledge, attitudes and management. J Adv Nurs 2009;65:901–11
  • Belza BL. Comparison of self-reported fatigue in rheumatoid arthritis and controls. J Rheumatol 1995; 22:639–43
  • Cella D, Lai JS, Stone A. Self-reported fatigue: one dimension or more? Lessons from the Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy Fatigue (FACIT-F) questionnaire. Support* Care Cancer 2011; 19:1441–50

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Author

Expert Author : Beth Solomon (Consumer Health Digest)

Beth Solomon has been writing articles on health for more than two years with a concentration on pain management and men’s and women’s health and fitness. She has been a contributing editor to Consumer Health Digest since 2013.