Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and Fatigue

By Dragon Claw Charity  

Fatigue is a common symptom in RA and a major patient issue. It is one of the most important symptoms for patients with RA, and impacts negatively on patients’ lives and their quality of life.

Patients have described it as overwhelming and unpredictable and can include physical fatigue (e.g. levels of physical energy), cognitive fatigue (e.g. concentration and clarity of thought), living with fatigue (e.g. ability to carry out activities of daily living and social activities) and emotional fatigue (e.g. feelings of distress or upset). They have reported the negative effects of fatigue on their well-being, physical activities, emotions, mood, relationships, and social and family roles. A challenge in providing support for RA-related fatigue is that the causes are still unknown.

Possibly due to the lack of clarity around causes, there is an increasing focus on the self-management of fatigue rather than on trying to cure it.

Research suggests that physical activity, social support and mental health support have potential reduce the impact of fatigue levels related to rheumatoid arthritis. Reflexology and aromatherapy also appeared promising. Furthermore, generic factors such as pain, mental health, disability and sleep contribute, while the role of disease itself and inflammation are less clear.

So this is what you can do in discussion with your clinician:

  • Reduce the dosages of your medications, as may be appropriate;
  • Exercise regularly by walking, swimming and dancing;
  • Go to your local gym for a supervised exercise routine;
  • Have regular social meetings for coffees, book clubs and alike; and
  • Get good sleep.

If things don’t improve over two months revisit your clinician and consider the anxiety support link within Dragon Claw called This Way Up.