Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms
Fatigue is a daily lack of energy; unusual or excessive 'whole-body' tiredness which is not relieved by sleep. It can be acute or chronic (lasting six months or longer). Fatigue can and often does prevent a person from functioning normally and can severely affect quality of life.
Fatigue v's Tiredness
Fatigue is not the same thing as tiredness. Everyone experiences tiredness, and rest or a decent night's sleep will alleviate it. Fatigue is a different beast altogether and is not alleviated by sleep. Resting can help to temporarily lessen fatigue but it does not alleviate it, which is an important difference between fatigue and tiredness.
Fatigue and Multiple Sclerosis
Fatigue is probably the most common symptom experienced by people who have multiple sclerosis. 85% of people with multiple sclerosis experience fatigue, many for the entire course of the disease.
While the cause of multiple sclerosis related fatigue remains as yet unknown, it has particular characteristics which make it different from other types of fatigue, for example fatigue from depression.
Multiple sclerosis (ms) related fatigue:
- MS-related fatigue generally occurs on an everyday basis.
- It tends to grow worse as the day progresses.
- It is often aggravated and made worse by excessive heat and humidity.
- It comes on more easily and suddenly.
- It is generally more severe than normal fatigue.
- It is more likely to interfere with daily responsibilities.
- MS-related fatigue does not appear to be directly linked with either depression or the degree of any physical impairment. It often occurs from first thing in the morning even with a full night's rest, and lasts throughout the day.
Fatigue related to multiple sclerosis can cause an overwhelming tiredness which does not lift and can often cause other symptoms such as visual disturbance, difficulties with concentration, memory, mobility and muscle spasms to become worse.
In multiple sclerosis, there are actually two types of fatigue: primary fatigue and secondary fatigue.
Primary fatigue is experienced as a direct result of damage to the central nervous system. This can manifest as lassitude, which is an overwhelming tiredness not directly related to physical activity or exertion; heat sensitivity fatigue, which is caused by a rise in body temperature; or 'localized' fatigue, which is extreme tiredness of a muscle group after only a short period of use, such as when writing or walking.
Secondary fatigue is fatigue which may not be directly related to multiple sclerosis itself but by other factors which may be connected to multiple sclerosis such as depression.
Secondary fatigue may be caused by sleep disturbance, for example, from having to go to the bathroom during the night; depression, which is common in multiple sclerosis and which also causes fatigue; exertion, even for a short period of time; medications which may cause drowsiness as a side effect; or other factors such as environmental temperature causing a temporary rise in body temperature.
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