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Fatigue in Lupus and Sjogren’s [February 2023 Update]

Mitochondria found to be abnormal in SLE patient by the NIH. Exercise repaired the mitochondria and energy levels improved: see Hasni et al, below

February 2023 update: In 2022, the National Institutes of Health showed that exercise repairs mitochondria and improves energy in lupus patients (see below)
In the video linked below, you will find out:– the causes of fatigue in lupus and other autoimmune disorders such as Sjogren’s. Although this talk was given for the Sjogren’s Foundation, it also applies to systemic lupus erythematosus and related disorders:

​- the different types of fatigue

– practical advice on how to approach and treat fatigue
– Download my free Fatigue Management and Sleep Hygiene Handouts in my Lupus Secrets.Vitamins for lupus fatigue? Vitamins only help if there is actually a deficiency causing the fatigue. This most commonly is either iron, vitamin D, or vitamin B12. However, vitamins rarely help most patients’ lupus fatigue.

Damaged mitochondria linked to fatigue in lupus: Exercise shown to repair mitochondria and improve energy

Exercise and fatigue? This is actually the most successful treatment in people who have lupus, Sjogren’s, fibromyalgia, sleep disorders and related problems. Numerous studies show that when lupus patients force themselves to exercise, fatigue improves. However, the big question has always been… why? Damaged mitochondria may be one reason per 2022 NIH research.

Artists depiction of electron microscopy of mitochondria a cause of fatigue in lupus
The NIH found that SLE patients have abnormal mitochondria. Exercise repaired the mitochondria and energy levels improved

In 2022, Dr. S. Hasni and associates at the Lupus Center at the NIH did a study in sedentary women with systemic lupus who had bad fatigue. They discovered that before the study, their mitochondria (the powerhouse, energy-producing part of cells) were abnormal. After a 12-week exercise regimen, not only did the patients feel better with more energy, but their damaged mitochondria were repaired. Finally, connecting science to what sounds crazy. (it is very hard to convince someone with bad fatigue to force themselves to exercise).

Fatigue in lupus photo of a woman who is tired
Fatigue is often the number one cause of poor quality of life in lupus. But there are treatments. See video below

When are medicines most likely to help? If you have a high anti-dsDNA, low C3 or C4 complement, or high EC4d, then medications such as belimumab (Benlysta) may help fatigue. Hydroxychloroquine can help many patients as well.

Should you get lab tests for fatigue? Yes, I generally check blood counts, liver enzymes, kidney function, muscle enzymes, electrolytes, thyroid function tests, iron levels, vitamin B12 and vitamin D levels, hepatitis C titers, and lupus disease activity. Many people should get a sleep study to make sure they do not have other treatable causes such as sleep apnea.


SHARE with anyone who may suffer from fatigue

COMMENT above, please share how you deal with fatigue. Are you a spoonie?


 Don Thomas, MD, author of “The Lupus Encyclopedia” and “The Lupus Secrets

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