Stroke patients often experience fatigue that can stem from a variety of sources. Between 23% and 75% of stroke patients suffer from post-stroke fatigue (PSF). It is important to address this chronic condition because it can impair cognitive ability, mobility, and general mood.
Research shows that you can control fatigue symptoms with simple practices
A Korean researcher surveyed a number of prior studies to summarize the management of post-stroke mood and emotional disturbances. One of the sections in his report addressed PSF and ways to deal with this condition.
PSF is associated with neurological deficits, pre-stroke fatigue, high blood pressure, heart failure, medication, eating or sleeping problems, damage to certain areas of the brain, or pain. Also, depression can cause chronic fatigue. Because the causes of fatigue vary, there is no single treatment.
This video of the Australian Stroke Foundation gives an overview of the causes and management of fatigue after stroke.
While vitamins or antioxidants may help to alleviate some fatigue symptoms, they have limited effects. One drug, modafinil, has been shown to relieve PSF in patients whose stroke was located in the brainstem. This drug was originally given to patients suffering from hypersomnia (excessive sleeping or sleepiness) or narcolepsy (inability to regulate sleep-wake cycles) but has also shown some success in improving fatigue in stroke patients.
The review also found that forcing yourself to be active can help prevent post-stroke fatigue. Pursue exercises that are within your abilities and stick with them on a daily basis. Physical activity gets the blood flowing and can increase your mood.
Research also shows that keeping a regular sleep schedule can reduce the symptoms of chronic fatigue. Maintaining healthy sleep habits can help regulate your hormones.
In addition, avoid sedatives (unless prescribed by your doctor) and limit your consumption of alcohol. Mindfulness training can also help to reduce stress, in turn, reducing PSF.
Don’t let fatigue get the best of you
You have quite a bit under your control as you seek to manage PSF and maintain a wide-awake state as you recover from a stroke. Ask your therapist whether modafinil may be a useful complement to your stroke recovery therapy. Take advantage of the free therapeutic alternatives, such as moving about and mindfulness training. Remember, inertia is a powerful force: a body in motion tends to stay in motion.
Keep checking the Strokemark website for new reports of research developments in the management of post-stroke fatigue.
The author of this study was Jong S. Kim of the Department of Neurology, University of Ulsan, Asan Medical Center, Seoul, Republic of Korea.