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Strategies for managing fatigue

Fatigue is common in those with lupus. In fact, fatigue affects as many as 80 percent of people with lupus. For some, fatigue is the main symptom. Many people with lupus experience debilitating fatigue that prevents them from working.

Medical researchers are still working to understand why so many people with lupus experience extreme fatigue. Several factors seem to influence the onset and severity of fatigue. These factors include disease activity, level of pain, medications, age, mental and physical health, and the amount of social support the individual receives. Lupus fatigue may be associated with poor coping strategies, anxiety or depression, feelings of helplessness, smoking, and lack of exercise.

To determine the cause of a patient’s fatigue, a doctor will rule out other conditions that cause fatigue, such as anemia, low thyroid function (hypothyroidism), and kidney failure.

Medical professionals experienced in treating patients with lupus understand the harmful and destructive effects that fatigue can have. Researchers continue to work towards a greater understanding of how to treat fatigue associated with lupus.

People with lupus can make certain adjustments to reduce fatigue. Getting regular exercise can help, for example, as can joining a support group.

Ways to manage lupus fatigue

Identify signs of fatigue and the effects it has on you

Share these signs and effects with a trusted friend or family member and bring them to your next doctor appointment. Explain to your healthcare provider how fatigue affects your ability to work, take care of your family, or lead a fulfilling life. Ask your doctor for resources on lupus fatigue, and for more information on treatment options.

Listen to your body and understand your limits

Aerobic exercise gets your blood flowing, which makes it an effective drug-free treatment for lupus fatigue. If you are unable to engage in aerobic exercise, then any daily movement or strength-building activity can help. Consider taking exercise classes designed for your level of fitness.

Alternate your daily activities with short rest periods. Avoid taking naps during the day, though, as they can interfere with your nightly sleep pattern.

Plan and prioritize your activities carefully. Accomplish essential tasks first, while you have energy, so that you can delay non-essential activities as necessary. Group your errands, for example, and schedule rest periods in between tasks. Shop online when possible and have items shipped to you. Prepare meals in advance, and arrange for help around the house. Agree to only those activities and events that do not leave you exhausted, and politely decline the rest. Your health should always come first.

Accept fatigue as a condition of having lupus

Avoid the temptation to blame yourself; keep in mind that you did not choose lupus. Prioritize rest – you can participate in more activities if you schedule rest stops along the way.

Learn to ask for what you need. Make sure your friends and family know what you need and why you need it. Asking for help becomes easier with time, patience, and practice. Accept any help your family, friends, co-workers, or community offers – it will strengthen the bonds between you and those who care about you.

Make adjustments to improve the quality of your life

Join a support group in which you can learn and share tips on fighting fatigue. Eat a healthy diet and establish good sleep patterns. If you smoke, quit.

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