Detailed interviews of 40 fibromyalgia patients from three countries (United States, Germany and France) reveal that fatigue is the second most annoying symptom after pain.
The research was prompted by previous studies that included patient comments that fatigue was a symptom worthy of being evaluated in treatment trials. Currently, the success of a therapy depends mainly on how well it reduces the pain of fibromyalgia, with little or no attention to fatigue. In addition, there is no clear understanding of the key characteristics of fatigue that must be measured.
During the interviews, the patients were asked open questions, such as: “Tell me about your experience of having fibromyalgia.” Therefore, the objective of the interviews was not to ask specifically about fatigue, because the researchers wanted to hear what the patients had. Say spontaneously about your symptoms.
The average duration of fibromyalgia symptoms for the 40 participants was 6.6 years, their average age was 49 years, and 70% of them were women. When asked about their experience with fibromyalgia, they reported the following symptoms, without any indication:
- pain (78%)
- fatigue (43%)
- difficulties to sleep (18%)
- mobility problems (10%)
Remember, this was based on your unsolicited comments about fibromyalgia. When asked to rate the three main symptoms, the order was basically the same but the percentages were much higher.
“Fibromyalgia fatigue was described as an overwhelming feeling of tiredness that was not alleviated by sleep or rest and is often not proportional to the exertion (ie, participants described tiredness after doing very little)” , the authors affirm. Participants also made it clear that their fatigue related to fibromyalgia was not just “normal fatigue”.
The participants described their fatigue in more detail in the following eight categories that many of you can probably relate to:
- Overwhelming feeling of tiredness (43%): sometimes to the point that they could not do anything.
- Not relieved by rest or sleep (38%): fatigue persisted even after what the patient felt was a good night’s sleep
- It is not proportional to the effort exerted (63%): it does not take much to trigger this symptom
- Sensation of weakness or heaviness (28%): the body feels heavy, weak or lacking in strength
- It’s hard to feel motivated (83%): it takes a lot of effort to get things done, like just getting out of bed and “getting going” in the morning
- Difficulty doing the things they want to do (60%): fatigue / fatigue makes it difficult to do what they want or need to do.
- Having to do things more slowly (38%): it takes more time to do things and some patients felt that it was related to the feeling of heaviness or weakness
- Difficulty concentrating, thinking or remembering things (68%): fatigue / fatigue affects the ability to concentrate, difficulty remembering things, difficulty thinking clearly or staying focused
“Men and women described the experience of fatigue and its impact in a very similar way,” the authors write. Summarizing their findings, in fibromyalgia, “fatigue seems to be the second most important symptom and one that has a considerable impact on the lives of patients.” Because there are so many symptoms of fatigue related to fibromyalgia, it will be a challenge. Evaluate the impact of this symptom in treatment trials. But the results of this study may lead to better tools to accurately measure “fatigue” in patients with fibromyalgia.