Fatigue is a very common symptom of multiple sclerosis (MS) and can be a disabling and frustrating symptom with a huge impact on quality of life. Between 75 and 95 percent of people with MS experience fatigue.
Fatigue in MS is different in many ways from the tiredness people may experience as the result of a long day at work or a late night out. According to the National MS Society, people with MS commonly experience fatigue:
When fatigue affects people with MS in these ways, it may also be referred to as lassitude. MS fatigue is typically more severe than “normal” fatigue, and may interfere with work, school, and tasks of daily life. In fact, MS fatigue is a primary reason people with MS have to reduce work hours or stop working altogether.
Members of MyMSTeam describe chronic, profound fatigue that does not usually improve with a nap or a cup of coffee. Here are some descriptions of MS fatigue from members in their own words:
MyMSTeam members also discuss how MS fatigue affects their relationships with friends, family, and romantic partners. Members describe disappointment and resentment from loved ones who do not understand how severe and unrelenting their fatigue from multiple sclerosis can be.
There are several types of medications that are sometimes prescribed to help manage fatigue in people with multiple sclerosis. Members of MyMSTeam report varying degrees of effectiveness. Like all medications, drugs prescribed for MS fatigue can also cause side effects.
More than 2,400 members of MyMSTeam indicate that they have taken Symmetrel (Amantadine). Amantadine is used to treat influenza and Parkinson’s, and researchers are unsure how it works to manage MS fatigue. Provigil (Modafinil) is a wakefulness-promoting drug often prescribed for those with narcolepsy. Stimulants like Adderall (Amphetamine/Dextroamphetamine), Ritalin (Methylphenidate), and Concerta (Methylphenidate) can also be used to treat MS fatigue.
Exercise can have many benefits for people with MS, and they may include improving fatigue as well as strength, flexibility, balance, and mood. Tai chi, yoga, and water-based exercises are among the types of physical activity suggested for people with MS. Always talk to your doctor before beginning a new exercise regimen.
Some people with MS find that fatigue worsens with heat. Keeping cool as much as possible may help with MS fatigue.
Some members of MyMSTeam report worse fatigue when they smoke cigarettes. According to the National MS Society, smoking can also affect the way MS medications work and hasten the progression from a relapsing to progressive type of MS.
Some MyMSTeam members say they feel better when they take nutritional supplements such as vitamins or herbal products. Before adding any new supplement to your diet, talk to your doctor first. Some supplements can cause dangerous interactions with medications.
Many people with MS fatigue learn to use energy-conserving techniques. The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America recommends energy-saving tactics including:
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