“The overwhelming response AARDA received to this survey shows without a shadow of doubt that fatigue is not a ‘fuzzy’ symptom, it’s real. Yet, for too long, it has been ignored and/or misunderstood by the medical community and the public at large. It’s time we bring more research funding to this issue to advance understanding and effective treatments for fatigue.”
Chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) and fibromyalgia aren’t the only disorders being shortchanged by the paucity of “fatigue”research. We’re not talking about ordinary fatigue. There’s a dramatic difference between normal everyday “fatigue” and the kind of “profoundly debilitating fatigue” that can affect every part of one’s life.
Citing a nearly 8,000 person online survey, the American Autoimmune and Related Diseases Association asserted that the often disabling fatigue found in autoimmune disorders should become a serious research focus.
The survey indicated that profound fatigue is probably the most common, debilitating and most poorly treated symptom people with autoimmune disorders have to deal with.
- Almost sixty percent of all people with autoimmune disorders said it was “probably their most debilitating symptom”.
- Two-thirds said their fatigue prevented them from doing “the simplest tasks”.
- Almost sixty percent said they were given no treatments for their fatigue
- Over twenty percent reported they had lost their jobs because of it.
The NIH reports that about 25 million people in the U.S. have an autoimmune disorder. By adding in autoimmune disorders without good epidemiological studies the AARDA doubles that number. If the AARDA is correct as many as 30 million Americans with autoimmune disorders suffer from severe and untreated fatigue.
“The prevalence of fatigue in motor neuron diseases is remarkably high, and may contribute significantly to patients’ disability and a poor quality of life. Despite its high prevalence, fatigue is an understudied clinical problem in motor neuron diseases and is often overlooked.” Abraham
That’s just the beginning of the fatigue issue, however. Fatigue is also common in neurological disorders
“Chronic fatigue is a typical symptom of neurological diseases, and is most disabling in multiple sclerosis, postpoliomyelitis, poststroke, and in chronic fatigue syndrome.” Chaudhuri and Behan
“Fatigue shows a slow response to antidepressant treatment and psychotherapy. Improved work performance is strongly correlated to improvement in energy. However, the assessment and treatment of fatigue in depressive disorder remains understudied. “
and, of course in ME/CFS and FM. Add the perhaps 15 million ME/CFS and/or FM patients and significant numbers of post-cancer patients in and you are surely well-past fifty million people in the US with severe, untreated fatigue.
That’s a lot of suffering and a lot of productivity lost.
Numerous things can cause fatigue but in a recent overview Maes proposes that a single factor in the brain – astrocyte degradation – could underlies many disorders associated with profound fatigue. Maes points to a suite of abnormalities (increased levels of oxidative stress, peripheral inflammation, gray matter atrophy, reduced glucose metabolism and reduced brain blood flows) common to ME/CFS, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. Whether the triggering factor is a pathogen, toxin or other factor Maes proposes that a feed forward process driven by inflammation, oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction underlies many severely fatiguing disorders.