Fatigue is defined as a lack of physical and/or mental energy that is perceived by the individual as severe enough to interfere with desired activities.
Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of MS and occurs in about 80% of MS patients. Many patients report that fatigue is one of their worst symptoms. But fatigue for MS patients is different from fatigue experienced by people without MS in that it:
- Generally occurs on a daily basis
- Tends to worsen as the day progresses
- Is aggravated by heat and humidity
- Comes on more easily and suddenly
- Is generally more severe than normal fatigue
There are ways to manage fatigue in MS
- Simplify tasks at work and home
- Learn energy saving ways of walking and performing other daily tasks
- Moderate aerobic exercise can reduce fatigue and depression and increase strength
- Treat MS symptoms that interfere with sleep, like spasticity and frequent urination.
- Use sleep medications on a short term basis
- Maintain good sleep hygiene
- Limit caffeine and alcohol
- Keep a sleep diary and bring it to your office visit
- Treat depression, anxiety, sleep apnea, restless legs, etc.
- Stress management
- Relaxation training
- Support groups
- Practice good nutrition
- Control your weight with moderate exercise
- Get enough sleep
- Quit smoking
Organizing your work space and good time management are keys to successfully managing fatigue in MS.
- Planning: create daily, weekly and monthly “to do” lists
- Prioritizing: remain flexible and eliminate tasks that are not necessary
- Pacing: take breaks and simplify your tasks
- Positioning: sit down whenever possible and use adaptive equipment
There are medications often used to treat primary MS fatigue. They include: