There are more than 100 different types of arthritis, which is a catch-all term for diseases that cause joint pain and inflammation, and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is among one of the more common, affecting 1.5 million people in the United States.
RA can be an extremely debilitating disease if left unchecked, and one of the chief complaints is the fatigue that often accompanies the condition.
As arthritis specialists, the team’s goal here at Advanced Spine Care and Pain Management is to help people manage chronic joint pain and inflammation. With RA, this discomfort is only one aspect of this complex autoimmune condition and, here, we discuss why so many RA sufferers encounter fatigue.
The relationship between RA and fatigue
RA is both an inflammatory and an autoimmune form of arthritis that occurs when your body mistakenly attacks the linings of your joints. The result of this assault is painful inflammation in your joints, especially in your hands, wrists, and knees, though RA can also affect organs, such as your heart, lung, and eyes.
What causes your body to launch this attack is still unknown, but when you develop RA, it happens quickly. Many people incur damage to their affected joints within three to six months of onset, and 60% of people who don’t seek proper treatment are unable to work 10 years after onset.
Aside from the joint pain and inflammation, fatigue is a common complaint with RA. This fatigue usually isn’t normal tiredness, but a deep exhaustion and lack of energy that leaves you feeling completely depleted. This fatigue is also often accompanied by excessive sleeping, trouble concentrating, and memory issues.
While researchers are unclear as to the exact cause of the fatigue, they believe the system-wide inflammation is what leads to the severe fatigue. To combat the inflammation, your body exhausts itself producing antibodies that, unfortunately, have no effect on the RA. As well, you may not be getting the rest you need if you’re struggling with painful joints throughout the night.
Fighting back against RA and fatigue
The best way to combat RA is to seek prompt treatment at the first signs of a problem. Through medications that control the inflammation, you can also control your fatigue.
Aside from managing your RA, there are steps that you can take on your own to bring up your energy levels. For example, we know that exercise may be the farthest thing from your mind when your joints are in pain and you’re exhausted, but it’s a great remedy for fatigue. Low impact activities can get your joints moving, which relieves inflammation and boosts your energy levels.
As well, we suggest that you avoid napping during the day. Instead, stick to a “normal” sleep regimen in which you get 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
Finally, we recommend that you limit your caffeine. While caffeine can give you an immediate burst of energy, it tends to leave you more fatigued after the effects have worn off.
If you’re sick and tired of RA fatigue getting in the way of your ability to lead a happy and productive life, please contact one of our offices in Hartsdale or Staten Island, New York, to get the treatments and recommendations you need.