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Multiple Sclerosis and Fatigue

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Medically speaking, fatigue is not the same thing as tiredness. Tiredness happens to everyone -- it is an expected feeling after certain activities or at the end of the day. Usually you know why you are tired and a good night's sleep solves the problem.

Fatigue is a daily lack of energy; unusual or excessive whole-body tiredness not relieved by sleep. It can be acute (lasting a month or less) or chronic (lasting from one to six months or longer). Fatigue can prevent a person from functioning normally and affects a person's quality of life.

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According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, 80% of people with MS have fatigue. MS-related fatigue tends to get worse as the day goes on, is often aggravated by heat and humidity, and comes on more easily and suddenly than normal fatigue.

What Can I Do About MS-Related Fatigue?

The best way to combat fatigue related to your MS is to treat the underlying medical cause. Unfortunately, the exact cause of MS-related fatigue is often unknown, or there may be multiple causes. However, there are steps you can take that may help to control fatigue. Here are some tips:

1. Assess your personal situation.

  • Evaluate your level of energy. Think of your personal energy stores as a "bank." Deposits and withdrawals have to be made over the course of the day or the week to balance energy conservation, restoration, and expenditure. Keep a diary for one week to identify the time of day when you are either most fatigued or have the most energy. Note what you think may be contributing factors.
  • Be alert to your personal warning signs of fatigue. Fatigue warning signs may include tired eyes, tired legs, whole-body tiredness, stiff shoulders, decreased energy or a lack of energy, inability to concentrate, weakness or malaise, boredom or lack of motivation, sleepiness, increased irritability, nervousness, anxiety, or impatience.
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