In the recent Parkinson’s Disease in America 2017 survey, the most common symptoms experienced by people with Parkinson’s disease (PD) were tremor (70%) and fatigue (71%). Tremor is, of course, one of the symptoms that PD is known for. Fatigue may be less recognized as being connected with PD, but it is a serious symptom. In addition to the number of people reporting they experience fatigue, the symptom was also one of the most significant for the severity.
Fatigue in Parkinson’s impacts quality of life
Fatigue can have a considerable impact on a person’s life. Unlike normal tiredness, fatigue isn’t relieved by sleep. Fatigue can make you feel tired all the time, weak, and thoroughly exhausted. It’s a symptom that can have an incredible impact on your quality of life, as it can cause you to not feel like doing much of anything. Fatigue from PD can also impact the people around you, especially your caregiver or care partner, who may need to pick up more of daily household chores and activities.
The fatigue experienced by people living with PD can be a result of the physical manifestations of the disease as well as a side effect of the medications used to treat PD. The mental factors associated with PD, like depression, can also cause fatigue.
Hope for fatigue
If you are experiencing fatigue, make sure you discuss it with your doctor. Fatigue is evaluated very subjectively, so tell your doctor how fatigue is impacting your life and how it may be interfering with the activities you want to engage in.
There are also lifestyle choices that can help minimize the effect fatigue has on your life, including:
Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water is always good for your health, and dehydration can increase fatigue. Some of the medications used to treat PD may cause dry mouth, and as PD progresses, some people develop difficulty with swallowing and dehydration. Maintain your hydration by limiting or avoiding alcoholic beverages and drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Experts recommend getting at least 51 ounces each day.1,2
Eat meals with a variety of foods to maintain good nutrition. Getting the proper amounts of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and fiber, can help your body be fueled properly. Many people with PD experience nutrition challenges, and working with a dietician or nutritionist can provide you with helpful advice catered to your individual needs.1,2
Get moving. Although it may seem like physical activity is the last thing you want to do when you’re feeling the effects of fatigue, research has proven that regular exercise is one of the best ways to combat fatigue. Don’t be overwhelmed by the term “exercise.” Find easy ways to get in gentle activities, like a short, daily walk and dedicated time for stretching.3,4
Manage your stress. Stress can worsen fatigue, so find ways to keep your emotional stress from becoming overwhelming. Note what activities and which people increase your energy rather than drain it. And if you haven’t yet tried stress relievers like meditation, acupuncture, yoga, Tai chi or Qigong, give them a try and see if they work for you.
Barichella M, Cereda E, Pezzoli G. Major nutritional issues in the management of Parkinson's disease. Mov Disord. 2009 Oct 15;24(13):1881-92.
Marcason W. What are the primary nutritional issues for a patient with Parkinson's disease? J Am Diet Assoc. 2009 Jul;109(7):1316.
Schmitz-Hübsch, T., Pyfer, D., Kielwein, K., Fimmers, R., Klockgether, T. and Wüllner, U. (2006), Qigong exercise for the symptoms of Parkinson's disease: A randomized, controlled pilot study. Mov. Disord., 21: 543–548. doi:10.1002/mds.20705.
Baatile J, Langbein WE, Weaver F, Maloney C, Jost MB. Effect of exercise on perceived quality of life of individuals with Parkinson’s disease. Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development. 2000 Sep/Oct. 37.5:529-34.