June 15, 2024

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Having an autoimmune disease can change your life in profound ways. For many people with autoimmune disease, fatigue is the most debilitating symptom. 

Why autoimmune disease and fatigue go hand-in-hand is not entirely understood, although inflam¬mation may explain some of it. Other possible factors include pain, poor sleep, inactivity, and depressed mood.

Fatigue differs from the tiredness most people feel after long periods of work or exer¬cise or when they haven’t slept well. It’s a feeling of constant exhaustion that makes it hard to get through the day, let alone participate in activities you enjoy. Fatigue is often frustrating for patients. It’s not something that your doctor can measure or test for. It’s often not evident to others, but it is very real for you. 

Strategies that may help manage fatigue.

If you experience fatigue that completely saps your energy, don’t try to push through it. Pay attention to your body, pace yourself, and try to find strategies that help. These ideas may be helpful to you:

  • Take it easy. Don’t try to do too much. If you get tired, take a nap, or do something restful like reading, listening to music, meditating, or a creative activity. Schedule rest breaks throughout the day if that helps.
  • Plan ahead. If you have limited energy, use it for the most important activities on your calendar. If you have a busy day ahead, make plans the night before to make the day go easier. 
  • Inform family and friends. Tell people you are close to about your condition and explain that it can cause fatigue so they will understand if you need to cancel or modify plans.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Eating foods such as oatmeal or nuts can give you a boost to your energy level. With some autoimmune conditions, you may need to follow certain dietary restrictions or special diets.
  • Get regular exercise. Physical activity can keep your body in good condition, which will help boost energy. Try to keep a regular schedule of exercise that you can tolerate.
  • Get enough sleep. Sleep is important, but it needs to be restorative sleep. To get better sleep, practice good sleep habits.
  • Find support. The challenges of coping with a chronic disease can wear you down. Mental fatigue can sap your energy. If your mood is low, talk with your doctor about ways to find emotional support.

For more information on overcoming the challenges of an autoimmune disease, check out “
Living with an an Autoimmune Disease
,” an online guide from Harvard Medical School.

Image: Getty Images

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No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.


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