Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis (MS). It can be extremely debilitating and is often described as a severe weakness in the legs and inability to muster the energy perform everyday tasks.
MS-related fatigue is experienced by over 3/4 of people with MS. It is reported to be one of the primary reasons people with MS give for having to leave work.
People with MS may experience difficulty sleeping due to stress, night time awakenings from bladder problems (incontience), muscle spasms or other reasons. They may also experience MS-related depression that adds to a sense of fatigue.
These secondary causes of fatigue only worsen the primary fatigue associated with the multiple sclerosis. The primary fatigue due to multiple sclerosis has the following qualities:
- It occurs daily
- It occurs in the morning, even after a night of restful sleep
- It tends to worsen through the day
- It tends to be aggravated by heat and humidity
- It is more severe and debilitating than most instances of fatigue.
Treatment of MS-Related Fatigue
Other causes of fatigue must first be ruled out, including depression, hypthyroidism, or anemia.
Avoiding excessive activity and heat are probably the most important steps a person can take to counter fatigue. Additional treatment options include stress management, physical and occupational therapy to develop more efficient ways of completing tasks, and sleep management,
There are several medications available that have been shown to reduce the symptoms of fatigue in some, but not all people with MS. These include amantadine (Symmetrel®), fluoxetine (Prozac®), and modafinil (Provigil®).
Sleep medications may be recommended for short-term use to help get someone back onto a regular sleep cycle.
If psychological aspects of fatigue such as depression or apathy are complicating the sense of fatigue, antidepressants may also be recommended.
Reference: The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)