MS and Fatigue

We recently reached out to you and asked what topics you’d like to hear more about in eMS news. Thank you so much for all of your great responses.  Many of you told us that you would appreciate more information on the issue of fatigue and multiple sclerosis. It’s August and temperatures are on the rise, which only intensifies MS fatigue.  So, with this issue, we would like to share the Rocky Mountain MS Center’s information, resources, and ways to help manage fatigue.

Fatigue is a common and troubling symptom for people with MS – it occurs in as many as 90% of people living with MS. For the majority of people, fatigue is one of their worst MS symptoms. It is sometimes referred to as an “invisible” symptom because, unlike conditions such as weakness or walking problems, fatigue may not be apparent to others.

MS fatigue is also difficult to define and describe to people who don’t experience it. It is not simply feeling tired or exhausted – fatigue is a depletion of energy to the point where rest or sleep is needed. There are three main types of fatigue including physical fatigue, cognitive fatigue and lassitude which is a general tiredness or global lack of energy.

Characteristics that distinguish MS fatigue are that it:  comes on easily; interferes with or prevents physical functioning; interferes with daily activities; and worsens with heat.  Other factors that are not directly related to MS, but may contribute to fatigue in a person with MS:  heat, depression, inadequate sleep, other medical problems, mobility impairments, physical deconditioning, muscle fatigue, and medications.

Treating MS fatigue is complicated and can be overwhelming. Where should you start?  Since many factors can contribute to MS fatigue, the solution is likely to be a combination of little changes that can create gradual improvement. 

There are two types of approaches to manage fatigue: medications and interventions such as sleep, cooling, energy conservation strategies, exercise and cognitive behavioral therapies.

To read more about ways to manage MS fatigue, CLICK HERE to read “Managing MS Fatigue – Surviving the Undertow”, written by Patricia Daily. Or, for the PDF version of the article, please click here: Managing_MS_Fatigue.pdf

MS fatigue is a very real and complex problem – it takes time to determine the solutions that will work for your particular situation. As you try different potential solutions, it is always important to have patience and develop realistic expectations.