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Multiple Sclerosis: What is Lassitude?

Although many people experience fatigue on a regular basis, one type of fatigue, commonly referred to as lassitude, is unique to people with multiple sclerosis (MS). Lassitude is thought to result from poor nerve conduction caused by damage to the myelin around the nerve fibers in the central nervous system (CNS). Because of the demyelination, your body has to work harder just to transmit messages between your brain and other parts of your body.

Unlike normal fatigue, MS lassitude

  • Tends to come on suddenly

  • Generally occurs on a daily basis

  • Can occur at any time of day, even right after a restful night's sleep

  • Generally increases as the day progresses

  • Can worsen temporarily with heat and humidity

  • Is much more likely to interfere with everyday activities

Lassitude may respond well to medication, so talk to your doctor about whether a prescription would work for you. Even though no medications have been approved specifically for the treatment of MS fatigue, several are known to provide relief for some people. For example, talk to your doctor about the following medications:

  • Amantadine: This antiviral medication has been found to relieve fatigue in some people with MS.

  • Provigil (modafinil): This medication is FDA-approved for the treatment of narcolepsy. The trials in MS have had mixed results, but many people find that it reduces feelings of sleepiness and tiredness.

  • Prozac (fluoxetine): This antidepressant may reduce feelings of fatigue, particularly if you're also experiencing depression.

  • Ritalin (methylphenidate): Some people find this stimulant very beneficial for managing their fatigue.

  • Adderal (dextroamphetamine and amphetamine): This stimulant is sometimes used for managing fatigue.

Although medication may be helpful, finding the one that's best for you is usually a process of trial and error. No medication, however, can take the place of adequate rest and exercise, the creative use of assistive technology, and other energy-saving strategies.

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