5 Tips to Manage Lupus-Related Fatigue

Fatigue is one of lupus’ hallmark symptoms, but because the damage caused by lupus is largely unseen, patients may be confused about why they’re so tired.

What is Lupus?

Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects various parts of the body, especially the skin, joints, blood, and kidneys. No one knows what causes this autoimmune disorder, but approximately 1.5 million Americans have it. 

In addition to causing pain, joint inflammation, skin and organ damage, the Lupus Foundation of America says approximately 80 percent of people with lupus experience fatigue. For some patients, it's their primary symptom and is so disruptive it prevents them from working or participating in normal activities. 

It's unclear what causes this extreme fatigue, but disease activity, pain, age and medicines taken to treat lupus all play a role. In addition, lack of exercise, smoking, isolation, depression, stress, anxiety and other physical and mental health issues contribute to patients' fatigue.

How to Manage Lupus-Related Fatigue

1. Rest. As obvious as this seems, many patients fight their need for rest by pushing themselves to keep up with too-taxing schedules. The body is sending a clear message: it needs rest in order to heal.

  • Establish regular bed and wake times that allow at least nine hours of sleep every night.
  • Take naps or rest breaks throughout the day as needed.
  • Pace yourself.
  • Organize your schedule and streamline your workload to avoid doing too much in a day.

2. Exercise. You may feel too tired to move, but movement and physical activity are exactly what you need. Schedule at least 30 minutes of low-impact exercise every day. This can include walking, swimming, yoga, Pilates, elliptical training or other forms of exercise that are easy on sore joints. The Lupus Foundation says exercise will:

  • Reduce or minimize stress
  • Help keep your heart healthy
  • Improve muscle stiffness
  • Increase muscle strength
  • Help prevent osteoporosis
  • Increase your range of motion

3. Eat well. Many American diets are filled with energy zapping foods loaded with empty calories and too much sugar, processed carbohydrates, unhealthy fats, alcohol, caffeine and chemicals. When your body is stressed, it needs to be nourished. Food is our body's most important medicine. 

  • Clean up your diet - toss out sodas, cookies, chips, alcohol, coffee and processed foods.
  • Load up on nutrients - fill your pantry and refrigerator with fresh fruits and veggies, lean proteins, whole grains, nuts and seeds, beans and low-fat dairy products.
  • Learn to cook - plan, shop and prepare for healthy meals in advance. Keep easy-to-prepare or frozen healthy meals on hand for days when you're too busy or tired to cook.
  • Drink lots of water.

4. Create mental health. Depression, anxiety and stress are closely tied to feelings of hopelessness, lack of motivation and serious fatigue. 

  • Talk to your doctor about the emotional impact of your illness.
  • Ask for referrals to therapists.
  • Practice stress reduction techniques like meditation, yoga and tai chi.
  • Consider taking anti-depressant and/or anti-anxiety medication.
  • Join a support group.
  • Stay active in your community and avoid isolation.

5. Treat your disease. Don't ignore your condition. Many lupus symptoms can be treated with medications that slow down and prevent disease progression.

  • Consult a rheumatologist
  • Take your medications regularly, as prescribed


Lupus Foundation of America

Exercise, Fatigue and Photosensitivity


National Institue of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease

National Institutes of Health