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Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fatigue

Symptoms: Fatigue, morning stiffness, joint pain, inflamed joints

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a type of inflammatory arthritis, is another cause of excessive fatigue. Because joint damage can result in disability, early and aggressive treatment is the best approach for rheumatoid arthritis.

Medications that may be used early in mild RA include:

  • nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs)

Other drugs used in more serious forms of RA include the anti-cytokine therapies (anti-tumor necrosis factor alpha agents), as well as injections and other forms of treatment.

Sleep Apnea and Fatigue

Symptoms: Chronic fatigue, feeling exhausted upon awakening, snoring

According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than one-third of adults in the U.S. snore at least a few nights a week. If snoring is associated with periods when breathing stops, a condition called sleep apnea, a person may have daytime sleepiness and excessive fatigue.

Obstructive sleep apnea results in low oxygen levels in the blood. That's because blockages prevent air from getting to the lungs. The low oxygen levels also affect your heart and brain function. Sometimes, the only clue that you might have sleep apnea is chronic fatigue.

Talk with your doctor about a sleep study (polysomnogram) to determine if you have sleep apnea.  Lose weight if you are overweight, and if you smoke, stop. Both obesity and smoking are risk factors for sleep apnea. Sleeping on your side instead of your back may help eliminate mild sleep apnea.

Your doctor may prescribe a medical device called CPAP that helps keep your airways open while you sleep. In severe cases of sleep apnea, surgery may help. The surgeon will remove tissues that are blocking the airways. If left untreated, sleep apnea can increase your risk of stroke or heart attack.

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