Everyone gets tired, but serious fatigue — the kind you can’t shake with a single cup of coffee or brisk walk around the block — often goes hand-in-hand with chronic illness. That’s certainly true of arthritis, which includes many different diseases that cause pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints.

A new study, presented at the 2018 American College of Rheumatology/Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals (ACR/ARHP) Annual Meeting in Chicago, confirms the magnitude of this connection.

The research, led by scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, relied on data from the ongoing National Health Interview Survey. The study authors reviewed reports from the 2015 and 2016 Adult Functioning and Disability Supplement, which provided access to info on a total of more than 33,000 people.

The survey asked participants to rate how often they felt “very tired or exhausted” during the prior three months: never, some days, most days, every day. More than 80 percent of people with arthritis reported fatigue of any type (compared to about 61 percent in those without arthritis), and one in four of them said they had “a lot” of fatigue.

Adults with arthritis were also much more apt to say that they had “fatigue every day” (12 percent versus 4 percent in people without arthritis).

Arthritis patients may suffer from more fatigue because of inflammation that stresses the body. Chronic pain is also a big factor, since it often interferes with sleep — and lack of sleep, in turn, can worsen pain. (Many people with arthritis call this painsomnia, and here are tips for how to cope with it.)

“Because pain is an important component of fatigue, exercise and self-management education interventions that lower pain levels may also improve fatigue,” say the authors. (Here are more tips for coping with and preventing fatigue.)

One possible limitation of this study is that the authors defined arthritis patients as anyone who had been diagnosed by a health professional with arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus, or fibromyalgia. But there is some debate within the medical community as to whether fibromyalgia is a type of arthritis: The American College of Rheumatology says that it is not, but notes that it can cause “chronic pain and fatigue similar to arthritis.”

Learn About More Rheumatology Research Breakthroughs

Follow our latest ACR meeting coverage to read about the research findings that could affect your treatment, lifestyle, and overall health.

Get Involved with Patient-Centered Arthritis Research

If you are diagnosed with arthritis or another musculoskeletal health condition, we encourage you to participate in future studies by joining CreakyJoints’ patient research registry, ArthritisPower. ArthritisPower is the first ever patient-led, patient-centered research registry for joint, bone, and inflammatory skin conditions. You can use ArthritisPower to track your disease symptoms, share patterns with your doctor, and participate in voluntary research studies. Learn more here.

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