If you are a Chronic Kidney Disease patient and/or are conducting regular Dialysis Treatments then you likely struggle with bouts of severe fatigue and tiredness. This can make you feel sluggish and worn-down as well as frustrated and demoralized because you seldom have enough energy to do even the most basic and necessary of daily tasks such as cooking, paying bills, taking kids/grandkids to school, spending time with family and friends, grocery shopping, and more. It is important to know that you are not alone and as many as 97% of Dialysis patients suffer from tiredness and fatigue. Lack of energy should never be a reflection of a Chronic Kidney Disease patient's desire to do more or productiveness, nor is sleep always the solution. The following seven (7) tips may help many patients improve their energy levels and thereby their emotional state as well as quality of life:
1. You may have sleep apnea: Dialysis patients have high rates of sleep apnea according to a study published in the American Journal of Kidney Disease. Sleep apnea is a disorder that causes shallow breathing or even pauses in breathing which can disrupt your sleep and affect the quality of your shut-eye. This stems from a partially blocked airway, researchers have suggested. The cause could be a result of enlarged tonsils, being overweight or allergies.
Possible Solution(s): To treat sleep apnea, you have to open up the airway located in the back of your throat. The most effective way to do so is a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) medical device, which blows pressured air to keep the airway open. Other solutions include surgical procedures to remove potential blockages and enlarge the airway, losing weight, and sleeping on your side. Patients should discuss the options best for them with their Nephrologists.
2. Your iron levels are low: Most Chronic Kidney Disease and Dialysis patients contend with low levels of iron and anemia due to the fact that their kidneys do not produce enough EPO (prompts the bone marrow to make red blood cells). As a result, the bone marrow makes fewer red blood cells, causing Anemia and leading patients to feel weak as well as experience lower energy levels. "Other symptoms of iron deficiency include pale skin; brittle nails and dry skin; headaches and dizziness; chest pain or shortness of breath; cold hands and feet; inflammation or soreness of the tongue; and unusual cravings for ice, dirt or starch," said Madeline Basler (a Nutritionist in New York).
Possible Solution(s) Eat more iron-rich foods such as oysters, clams, chicken, and red meat. Your body absorbs animal sources better than plant sources, Ms. Basler noted. Also, if you are a Dialysis patient, then you may consider talking with your Healthcare Team about using, Triferic, which is a cutting-edge iron replacement therapy that has been found to be more effective for Dialysis patients than traditional methods (click here to learn more).
3. You’re deficient in vitamin B12: The B12 vitamin is an essential vitamin found in meat, fish, poultry, eggs and milk. Dialysis patients generally have poor nutritional intake, predisposing them to B12 deficiency, suggested Researcher Chadi Saifan. B12 is necessary for the proper function and development of the brain, nerves, blood cells and other parts of the body. Hence, a lack of B12 can cause fatigue and a feeling of constant tiredness.
Possible Solution(s) Repletion can be accomplished through various methods, but the most popular ones come in oral or injection forms of B12 according to Dana Corriel (an Internist - a specialist in internal medicine). Talk with your Healthcare Team about determining if you are deficient in the B12 vitamin via conducting a simple medical test.
4. You may have depression: Fatigue, along with changes in sleep habits, is one of the main symptoms of depression, suggested Dion Metzger (Atlanta-based Psychiatrist). Depression is a common issue among Chronic Kidney Disease and Dialysis patients who must constantly balance the idea of their own mortality (death) with attempting to lead a fulfilling life. Other signs that depression may be present include feeling unmotivated, no longer enjoying the things you used to find fun, and feeling hopeless.
Possible Solution(s): Talk to your Nephrologist if you suspect you may be depressed. When diagnosed, depression can be treated with methods such as exercise, relaxation techniques, massage, cognitive behavioral therapy, and by various medications.
5. You may have an underactive thyroid: Many Chronic Kidney Disease patients conducting Dialysis suffer from thyroid issues. The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland at the base the neck that produces hormones that regulate metabolism. If your thyroid hormone levels are low as a Dialysis patient, you may experience fatigue and severe tiredness. Other signs of thyroid dysfunction include feeling cold, feeling down, constipation, dry skin, brittle nails and hair changes.
Possible Solution(s) A routine blood test can determine whether your thyroid levels are off, Dr. Corriel said. The typical course of treatment includes a daily dose of a synthetic thyroid hormone, which mimics your body’s natural thyroid hormone.
6. Your hormones may be out-of-whack: Some men who conduct Dialysis have been known to suffer from low testosterone levels which can cause feelings of tiredness. For both men and women, low Cortisol (a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal cortex) levels can also lead to fatigue. In women, elevated levels of estrogen and not enough progesterone can make you tired and moody, said Alisa Vitti (a Nutritionist, author, and Founder of FLOliving.com).
Possible Solution(s): See your Nephrologist for a test (typically using either your blood or saliva), which can help determine your plan of treatment.
7. You may have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): If you tend to feel exhausted during the winter months, it may not be coincidental. People with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) exhibit depressive symptoms, including fatigue, due to less light exposure during the shorter winter days. This is likely especially common among Chronic Kidney Disease and Dialysis patients who already have a predisposition for depression and demoralization.
Possible Solution(s): Lightboxes, such as this LED lamp, can be very helpful in treating SAD symptoms, reported medical professionals familiar with the condition.
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