How to Deal with Fatigue When Suffering from Chronic Illness

  • By Jennifer Mulder
  • 21 November 2019
  • 3 minute read
How to Deal with Fatigue When Suffering from Chronic Illness | The Health Sessions

This article is written by Selena Thomas. 

Many people do not know that there is a difference between tiredness and fatigue, mostly because they were lucky enough never to experience real fatigue. However, people who suffer from various chronic illnesses usually say that fatigue is the most annoying symptom of their condition. Since fatigue can seriously impair someone’s quality of life, today we are going to discuss it and see what can we do to cope better with it.

Tiredness vs. Fatigue

So what is the difference between fatigue and tiredness? How to know when your tiredness is more than that?

We all feel tired from time to time, and that is ok if it is a consequence of your hectic lifestyle, a lot of work, kids, etc. Fatigue is a more severe feeling and usually a symptom of some chronic conditions. People who experience fatigue are always feeling weak, and they are without energy. But since both are pretty subjective feelings, many cannot tell the difference.

Doctors usually rely on a few questions, and based on the patient’s answers, they can tell if it is really fatigue or just tiredness. Questions like: “Do you feel tired after sleeping the whole night? Do you skip some regular daily activities because you are too tired? How long have you been feeling like this? Do you sleep more than seven hours and still feel tired?” Etc. If your answers are mainly positive, then you know it is fatigue.

How to Deal with Fatigue When Suffering from Chronic Illness | The Health Sessions

Causes of Fatigue in Patients With Chronic Illnesses

Chronic illnesses are tricky because they often trigger other conditions or symptoms that can only aggravate the entire situation. Patients who go through this usually share the same causes of fatigue. Here are the most common ones:

  • Pain as the number one symptom is definitely high on the list because constantly having to feel the pain is exhausting. Pain also causes sleep-related difficulties, so people are not able to rest, which additionally contributes to their fatigue.
  • When other health or sleep-related problems combine with fatigue (for example, nonrestorative sleep, insomnia or fibromyalgia ), the situation is far worse, because then people have to treat these conditions simultaneously or find out which one came first. Since fatigue goes well with many chronic illnesses, this is a common scenario.
  • Some medications for chronic illnesses, such as rheumatoid arthritis, come with side effects that can only worsen fatigue. Pain killers, muscle relaxants, and other common drugs are high on the list of fatigue causes. Although your doctor will hardly change your therapy because of that, it is still essential to tell when you notice the side effects such as fatigue.

How to Handle Fatigue

Trying to manage fatigue is not easy. Sometimes, it requires combining or trying out different things until you find what works for you. We suggest consulting a doctor, especially if you are changing your medications and supplements.

How to Deal with Fatigue When Suffering from Chronic Illness | The Health Sessions

1. Injections

Drugs are one of the main causes of fatigue, but patients do not always have to change their therapy or live with side effects. It is possible to take the same drug in a different form. Instead of pills that go all the way through our gastrointestinal tract, injections insert the medication right into our bloodstream. Choosing injections can help patients improve fatigue.

2. Schedules and doses

Sometimes, you have to schedule your doctor appointments and medications around your work time and other daily things. For example, injections for rheumatoid arthritis can be pretty painful, so you should not take them before going to work. Schedule them on weekends or Friday after work, so you have the time to rest. Consult your doctor about custom tailoring your doses of medication so that you do not get much fatigue during the day. The same is with drugs you take during the evening if you notice that later you cannot fall asleep, ask for permission to take them in the morning instead.

3. Counseling

Fatigue is a condition that causes symptoms similar to depression. Depression is another risk, and this relationship also goes the other way around since depression can trigger fatigue. Visiting a psychiatrist should help to find the underlying cause and get a proper diagnose. People who are dealing with fatigue are often misunderstood by their close ones because other people always think that they are exaggerating. If talking to them does not show results, try family counseling, or spoon theory.

4. The good days

Of course, you will have good days when you are all fine, energetic, positive, and productive. But you should not push yourself too much on those days. You do not have to put extra pressure on yourself to get even more things done just because you woke up in the right mood. You might feel good and productive, but if you go over your limits, the next day is going to be ten times worse. Know your limits on the good and the bad days.

5. Supplements

Supplements such as CBD oil are very popular for relieving pain, especially among patients with fibromyalgia. Others who have problems with their sleep, such as insomnia, rely on melatonin supplements to keep their sleep-wake cycle in order. For boosting your immune system, vitamin D is the key ingredient; people who have a low level of vitamin D should follow a specific diet. Probiotic supplements are another option, and there are plenty of others to choose from, depending on your needs.

How to Deal with Fatigue When Suffering from Chronic Illness | The Health Sessions

6. Healthy lifestyle

A healthy lifestyle implies a lot of behavioral changes that all together work well, but they require commitment and discipline. If you have fatigue, we understand that exercising is the last thing you want to do, but you have to be physically active. Walking, swimming, or biking, those are all some light exercises that will not drain you too much if you practice them regularly. Sleep routine and hygiene are also essential if you are fatigued and sleep-deprived. If you have chronic aches, make sure you are using a mattress and a pillow that is comfortable and suitable for your needs.

7. What about work?

Fatigue does not care if you have to work from 9 to 5, so having a regular job is always a tough challenge. People might contribute less, or do not perform well, and it all affects not only their job but their mood and fatigue. Depending on the job and office policy, you can ask to work from home or to have flexible work hours. Always be clear about your diagnosis and inform your bosses about it. They cannot help you or understand you unless they do not know you have a problem.

The Bottom Line

Not all chronic illnesses are the same. Lupus, arthritis, insomnia, fibromyalgia and autoimmune diseases are only some of the most common ones. They are all very exhausting, mentally, and physically, which is why fatigue is the main side effect of them all. And sometimes, fatigue can hinder your daily functioning even more than your diagnosed chronic illness.

It is clear why coping with fatigue is so important. However, there is no universal solution to fatigue; everyone has to find an approach or a combination of them, that helps.

Author Bio: Selena Thomas is a content writer who loves sharing tips on healthy lifestyles. A writer by day and a reader by night, she’s fond of writing articles that can help people in improving both physical and mental health. Also, she loves traveling and inspires people on her blogs.

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