Why Does Rheumatoid Arthritis Cause Fatigue?

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Decreased muscle mass


There is a medical condition called cachexia. It is associated with the abnormality (overactive) immune system and can lead to muscle decreases.

The loss of muscle mass means the loss of muscle tissues, and the amount of muscle tissues is equivalent to the amount of cells that produce energy. As a result, you are also easier to experience fatigue if you have cachexia.

And many people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have cachexia, too – according to one study.


It is a medical term used to describe too low levels of red blood cells or hemoglobin in your bloodstream. Both red blood cells and hemoglobin play a key role to pick up oxygen from the lungs and distribute it throughout the body.

Fatigue is a common symptom if you have anemia. And in fact, anemia can affect many sufferers with RA. For in-depth information about the answer of why and how RA can cause anemia, see this post!



While chronic pain and inflammation of RA can have a direct effect in causing fatigue, they also put you at high risk of depression and stress. And these mood problems can worsen your fatigue, creating vicious cycle.

In fact, both depression and fatigue are often found together. Furthermore, they may also coexist with other psychological conditions such as anxiety or bipolar disorder.


It is another autoimmune disorder that also can contribute to cause fatigue. Interestingly, people with one autoimmune disease tend to develop another condition related to the immune system abnormality.

If you have RA, you are also at high risk of developing another autoimmune disease such as lupus or fibromyalgia. Even about 1 out of 5 sufferers with RA has fibromyalgia.

See also more information about how you can get fibromyalgia in this section!

Side effects of some RA medications

Having chronic and systemic inflammatory condition such as RA should be monitored regularly. Even some medications can be prescribed in long term to help control it.

But while taking the medications as well as prescribed is essential to cope with the problem, some could pose the risk of some side effects, too. For instance, drowsiness is a common side effect of NSAIDs (anti-inflammatory medicines) and this symptom may worsen your fatigue.

In general, each medication you take to cope with your RA should have the advantages that outweigh the risks. And your doctor has completely understood about this issue!

However if your fatigue gets worse and bothers you a lot, and you do believe that it is linked to the medication that you are taking, talk to your doctor for more advice!

Citations /references:

  1. http://www.arthritistoday.org/about-arthritis/signs-and-symptoms/fatigue/beat-fatigue.php
  2. http://www.orthop.washington.edu/?q=patient-care/articles/arthritis/fatigue.html


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