Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of RA and can be one of the most debilitating. It may also severely impact a person’s quality of life.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) causes joint inflammation, swelling, and pain, primarily in the hands, feet, elbows, and knees. RA can cause a person to feel fatigued.

Fatigue may be a major source of anxiety, with around 7 in 10 RA patients experiencing significant fatigue, which can be just as difficult to manage as pain.

In this article, we look at RA and fatigue, exploring its symptoms, underlying causes, when to seek medical attention, and how to manage it.

older person holding tennis racketShare on Pinterest
Maskot/Getty Images

People with RA typically have inflammation in more than one joint. This inflammation may trigger various immune responses that disrupt normal bodily functions, leading to weakness and drowsiness that rest does not relieve.

Also, pain and discomfort from inflamed joints can disrupt sleep patterns, exacerbating tiredness. Some people find this feeling of extreme tiredness, also known as fatigue, to be the most difficult symptom of RA. Fatigue increases the need for sleep and can make it hard to concentrate.

People can experience a constant feeling of exhaustion and may not be able to maintain an active lifestyle, which can also affect their mood.

Many people who have RA also experience depression, irritability, or anxiety. This can have a significant effect on mental and emotional well-being, which may also contribute to feelings of fatigue and exhaustion.

RA can also lead to other symptoms, including:

While these are different symptoms, they can contribute to why a person feels fatigued.

Find out what rheumatoid arthritis feels like.

While fatigue is common in RA, people should pay attention to any changes or worsening of any of their symptoms. If fatigue becomes severe or significantly impacts daily functioning, it is important for a person to consult a healthcare professional as soon as possible.

Additionally, it is necessary to see a doctor if fatigue accompanies other concerning symptoms, such as:

These can be signs of disease progression or complications that require prompt medical attention.

Managing fatigue in RA involves a multidisciplinary approach that addresses the underlying causes while improving overall well-being.

Here are some strategies to try:

Make lifestyle modifications

Adopting healthy lifestyle habits can play a crucial role in managing fatigue. This includes:

When getting into an exercise routine, a person should start slow or try low-impact activities such as swimming or yoga.


Rheumatologists may prescribe medications to control inflammation and pain, which can also improve fatigue levels.

A doctor may also recommend medications to treat comorbid conditions such as depression or sleep disturbances.

Find out more about medications for RA pain.

Reduce stress

Stress can exacerbate fatigue and other RA symptoms.

Learning relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises, meditation, or mindfulness can help reduce stress and improve overall well-being.

Conserve energy

Pacing oneself and prioritizing tasks can prevent overexertion and conserve energy. It may help to break tasks into smaller, manageable chunks and take frequent breaks.

Having support

Seeking support from friends, family, or support groups can help provide emotional encouragement and practical assistance in managing fatigue or other challenges that come with RA.

Fatigue is a common symptom of RA, and it can significantly impact a person’s quality of life.

Fatigue may increase the need for sleep and, in turn, can make it difficult to maintain concentration or an active lifestyle. Also, feeling fatigued can severely affect a person’s mood.

By working closely with healthcare professionals and adopting healthy lifestyle habits, individuals with RA can better manage fatigue and live fulfilling lives despite the challenges that occur with the disease.