MS fatigue is more than "normal" fatigue. It affects 80 to 90 percent of people diagnosed, and a majority of people feel it is their most debilitating symptom.
When fatigue is a force and daily presence, it is overwhelming, and may feel difficult to gain control it. When you are fatigued, you may have difficulty concentrating and remembering information; you may feel depressed, unmotivated and it may be physically challenging to complete even the most basic daily activities. Fatigue's impact on daily life can be reduced, and one's quality of life can be improved with a better understanding of your source of fatigue. Learning specific tools and energy conservation strategies to address specific fatigue, will help you take control over it.
Everyone has fatigue, but people with MS can experience an intensified "normal" fatigue. Some examples would be stress, poor nutrition, a poor night's sleep, and lack of activity or exercise. A person with MS may have high stress levels due to role changes and financial concerns. Depression may be present. Sleeping patterns are interrupted due to frequent needs to go to the bathroom, or the presence of leg spasms. A person with MS may have weakness and decreased balance, and thus, does not exercise and is deconditioned. Eating well may be a challenge due to a lack of time, energy, and appetite. Medications may have side effects of fatigue. A person with MS may have sensitivity and poor regulation to heat or cold and fatigue is the result. A person with MS may also experience fatigue unique to the disease process.
This fatigue is termed primary fatigue, or lassitude fatigue. The reason is not fully understood, but is thought to be associated with immune system changes and nerve conduction inefficiency. This fatigue is characterized by coming on sudden, at any time of day, and usually increases as the day goes on.
Identifying the types of fatigue you experience will help you know how to compensate and increase your energy level. Talk to your doctor about your fatigue. Rehabilitation professionals, such as occupational therapists or physical therapists, teach people how to conserve energy and how to compensate for daily activities, with the goal of having the greatest level of independence as possible. These professionals teach strategies that you can realistically integrate into your daily life.
This is when control over fatigue begins, and the small changes lead into more because you have the energy to do it. The key is to recognize there is not a magic silver bullet to "cure" fatigue. It is a combination of little tools unique to you that will help you manage fatigue, and give you hope and energy.