Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic disease that involves inflammation of the joints, typically the small joints in the hands and feet. These joints become swollen and painful, and may eventually become twisted or deformed. As RA progresses, it affects other joints and tissues, as well as major organs like the heart, eyes, lungs, and kidneys.
One of the most common side effects of RA is chronic fatigue, or feeling tired all the time. As many as 80 percent of people with RA report chronic fatigue, which can severely impact quality of life.
RA-related fatigue can be caused by multiple conditions, including:
- chronic inflammation
- high blood pressure
- lack of sleep due to pain
- medication side effects
Just like there are many possible causes of fatigue, there are many ways to manage it. Talk with your doctor about the possible cause of your fatigue, such as depression, lack of sleep, or high blood pressure. There are additional ways to combat fatigue besides therapy sessions or medication.
Exercise may be the furthest thing from your mind when you feel fatigued, but it can be one of the best ways to fight drowsiness. Gentle, low-impact exercises can strengthen muscles, build endurance, and make your heart stronger. You may even find yourself losing extra weight and lowering your blood pressure. Good exercises to try are yoga, swimming, bicycling, and gentle stretching.
Change your routine
Make your life easier by streamlining tasks at home and work. For example:
- When cooking, make sure you gather all ingredients and utensils beforehand.
- Ask a friend to help you rearrange your cabinets so that the things you use everyday are easily accessible.
- Request a parking space close to the office building, and a workspace close to the restroom or break room.
- Sit down and make a list of the different ways you can work smarter, not harder, and ask for help if you need it.
Get a good night’s sleep
On average, adults need about eight hours of sleep per night. If you can do it, a short daytime nap of 20 to 30 minutes may help you feel more alert, energetic, and recharged. Try to avoid long naps during the day, as they can interfere with your regular sleep schedule.
Large, high-fat, high-carbohydrate meals can make you feel tired and sluggish. Try a protein-packed breakfast and a light lunch, with a couple of healthy snacks to prevent hunger.
Assistive devices and easy-open packaging are being invented to help those who have difficulty completing everyday tasks. Some of these items include:
- zipper pulls
- jar openers
- electric devices, like toothbrushes and can openers
- easy-open medicine bottles
- lever door handles
- keyless starter for your car
If you’re dealing with chronic fatigue, it’s important to sit down with your healthcare providers and talk about what can be done. Just because you have RA doesn’t mean you have to feel tired all the time or put your life on hold.