A colleague recently was describing his experience fighting pneumonia . In addition to the hideous, non-stop coughing and the serious antibiotics he was taking, he began to describe how tired it made him feel. He would do a few hours of work and then feel totally wiped out. He could barely walk up a long set of stairs and then broke out in a sweat. Long naps and going early to bed were common. At that point, I thought to myself, “That’s exactly what RA induced fatigue feels like.” Interestingly, he asked me how I was doing with RA (he regularly displays compassion and understanding). I proceeded to give some general thoughts about joints being affected and about the medicines I’m taking. Later on, I kicked myself for not describing other symptoms such as the fatigue. I tend to avoid this topic. While many people can understand joint pain and damage associated with RA, they tend to not understand the general malaise that comes with it.
The fatigue my friend with pneumonia was experiencing is actually rooted to the same causes of RA fatigue – an immune response . During an immune response, either from an infection or autoimmun ity, the body produces proteins called cytokines which are the cause of inflammation (see earlier post ). This can lead to the fatigue commonly associated with autoimmune diseases. And, unfortunately, like I did with my colleague, this symptom of RA routinely gets swept aside or dismissed.
Here’s a list of some of the ways RA induced fatigue impacts me.
It’s really hard to get going. This usually occurs in the morning and evening.
I have less stamina and wear out more quickly.
Bedtime gets earlier (or at least climbing into bed to rest if not yet fall asleep).
My wife drives more often especially on longer trips.
My limbs feel heavy.
My brain gets foggy and it’s harder to concentrate.
I have to force myself to do certain things and maintain attention.
Some activities fall by the wayside. I have to choose my “battles”.