Fatigue after stroke is a common side effect experienced by at least fifty percent of stroke patients. It often occurs as an invisible symptom and has a significant impact on stroke recovery. Post-Stroke Fatigue can result in overwhelming physical and/or mental exhaustion. It gives a feeling of being unwell and patients are not in control of their recovery. This fatigue causes a decrease in energy levels and calls for frequent breaks even for doing routine activities.
Post-Stroke Fatigue can be differentiated from the conventional ‘tiredness’ because it occurs without any warning symptoms and does not get any better after taking sufficient rest. Surprisingly, this fatigue is not related to the amount of activity done and can affect anyone irrespective of the stroke intensity (mild or severe). It is usually experienced in the first few weeks after a stroke attack. Yet, for some patients, this feeling of exhaustion occurs much later.
Stroke fatigue can have a tremendous impact on the quality of patient’s life and their relationship with others. This weariness does get better with time. But it is difficult to predict the exact timelines for full recovery. Since these symptoms are not obviously noticeable to others, managing this health issue is crucial rather than hitting the wall with physical or emotional roadblocks.
Causes of Stroke Fatigue
- Feeling of depression and dejection after stroke is a common cause that results in tiredness.
- Irregular sleep cycles, sleep disturbances, breathing trouble or sleeping problems like sleep apnea is also common.
- Certain medications prescribed for stroke recovery can make stroke patients more easily exhausted.
- Physical impairments after a stroke like weakness in upper limbs and paralysis make body movements difficult and energy consuming resulting in fatigue.
- Aches and pains experienced by patients after stroke can also cause tiredness as the body requires higher levels of energy for coping up with it.
- Nutritional imbalances and deficiencies also contribute to tiredness.
Effective Fatigue Management after Stroke
Stroke rehabilitation involves making changes to some of the daily living activities to reduce the grinding burden of fatigue in patients and aid faster recovery. Stroke Support Program can use the following approaches for effective fatigue management in patients:
- Encourage communication: The feeling of fatigue may not be evident to family, friends, caretakers and employers. Therefore, stroke patients must be encouraged to clearly convey and communicate what they are experiencing for better understanding and empathy from others.
- Ensuring sufficient rest: Patients must necessarily take ample rest with good sleep at nights, short naps during the day and periodic breaks to evade stress and exhaustion.
- Sustaining with moderation: It is advisable that patients don’t exert themselves beyond their capacity on any given day. They must be aware of their limitations and plan their schedules accordingly. This is because over-exhaustion hampers their activities the next day making them weak and lethargic.
- Maintaining an activity log: It is good for stroke survivors to maintain an activity log where they record their daily routines. This helps in better tracking and achieving healthy milestones.
- Planning in advance: It is recommended that patients to allocate plenty of time for performing their tasks since rushing can be tiring.
- Adopting an incremental approach: It is essential that stamina and strength are rebuilt slowly and consistently in patients rather than setting unachievable targets. This may be done by maintaining some level of regular exercise regimes and gradually increasing it as per health conditions.
- Eating a balanced healthy diet: Diet and nutrition goes a long way in stroke recovery. Patients must include plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains in their diet and seek appropriate nutritional counseling if required.
Nutritious food, regular exercise, self-awareness of body limitations and incremental improvement of stamina can thus effectively manage fatigue in stroke patients!