Fatigue: an overlooked determinant of physical function in scleroderma

Rheumatology (Oxford). 2009 Feb;48(2):165-9. doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/ken455. Epub 2008 Dec 23.


Objectives: To examine the frequency and correlates of fatigue and its impact on physical and social functioning in patients with scleroderma, and to investigate whether fatigue mediates an association between pain and physical function.

Methods: One hundred and seven scleroderma patients attending an academic scleroderma specialty centre completed measures of fatigue, sleep, pain, depressive symptoms, and physical and social functioning. Patients had received a comprehensive clinical assessment with a diagnosis of limited or diffuse scleroderma from their attending rheumatologist.

Results: In this sample of scleroderma patients, 76% reported experiencing fatigue and 61% of these patients reported fatigue as one of their three most distressing symptoms. Patients endorsing greater pain had higher levels of self-reported fatigue, as did those reporting greater depression and poorer functioning. Multiple regression analyses indicated that global fatigue was a significant cross-sectional correlate of physical, but not social, functioning after controlling for depressive symptoms, level of education, poor sleep quality and disease subtype. However, global fatigue did not predict physical function when pain was included in the analyses.

Conclusions: Our findings indicate that fatigue is common in scleroderma and that pain and fatigue are significant determinants of physical functioning for patients with limited and diffuse disease subtypes. Future research should investigate whether effective pain treatments reduce symptoms of fatigue, as well as identify other possible causes of fatigue in order to improve quality of life for scleroderma patients.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Depression / complications
  • Depression / physiopathology
  • Depression / psychology
  • Disability Evaluation*
  • Fatigue / diagnosis
  • Fatigue / etiology*
  • Fatigue / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / etiology
  • Regression Analysis
  • Scleroderma, Diffuse / complications*
  • Scleroderma, Diffuse / physiopathology
  • Scleroderma, Diffuse / psychology
  • Scleroderma, Systemic / complications*
  • Scleroderma, Systemic / physiopathology
  • Scleroderma, Systemic / psychology
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / complications
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / physiopathology
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / psychology
  • Social Environment