Fatigue is a common issue for people living with scleroderma. It’s one of the top three symptoms that bothers people living with scleroderma.

What is fatigue?

People describe fatigue as feeling tired, mentally exhausted, or physically overwhelmed day after day, no matter how much sleep they’ve had or what they’ve been doing, even if it’s just everyday tasks.

The effects of fatigue can have a significant impact on your pain and can diminish your quality of life.

What causes fatigue?

Things causing fatigue include:

  • Side effects from medication you might be taking
  • The physical and emotional impact of living with your condition
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Infection
  • Pain

If you’re feeling more fatigued than usual or your energy levels have changed, speak with your medical practitioner.

Steps to better manage your fatigue

Often, the best way to deal with your fatigue is to find a way to relax, switch off and rejuvenate. Give yourself permission to take a break or rest. Here’s some suggestions:

Planning and pacing your day or activities can assist you in doing what you want or need to do. This ensures you don’t cram too much in, giving you time to rest.

This might mean activities take you longer or you break them up into shorter tasks. Decide what is important to you and what you might be happy getting help with. Allow yourself time to recover in-between activities.

Practice healthy sleep habits. Quality sleep is important to maintaining your health and wellness. Yet, if you have scleroderma, it can be difficult to get. There are several types of sleep disruption, including restless leg syndrome. Pain and some medications are also serious challenges to sleep. They can make falling and staying asleep more challenging.

To get the best sleep, you should:

  • Be consistent with your bed time and when you wake up
  • Sleep in a dark room
  • Avoid drinking caffeine at least six [6] hours before bedtime
  • Avoid alcohol in the evening or use it to help you sleep

Daytime naps between 2pm and 5pm are okay but should be no more than 45 minutes. Set yourself a timer.

Make healthy food choices and stay active. The energy and nutrients helping your body work well come from what you eat and drink. Up to 90 per cent of patients with scleroderma have gut issues. A balanced diet is key to managing your fatigue symptoms.

Consider increasing your fruit, vegetable, wholegrain, low-fat dairy and lean meat consumption. Also reduce any high-fat, high-sugar and high-salt foods.

Keep your meals small and frequent. This will spread your energy levels.

Being active can also help reduce your fatigue symptoms. Exercise increases cardiovascular fitness, wellbeing, strength and flexibility. It can even improve your sleep.

Talk to your doctor, a physiotherapist or personal trainer to help avoid injury.

Manage your stress and use relaxation strategies to help reduce your fatigue symptoms.

There are many different relaxation techniques, so try a few to find one that works well for you. Speak to your psychologist or GP for guidance and advice.

For more information, download the Scleroderma – Managing Fatigue brochure.