Fatigue and exercise intolerance in mitochondrial diseases. Literature revision and experience of the Italian Network of mitochondrial diseases

Neuromuscul Disord. 2012 Dec;22 Suppl 3(3-3):S226-9. doi: 10.1016/j.nmd.2012.10.012.


Fatigue and exercise intolerance are common symptoms of mitochondrial diseases, but difficult to be clinically assessed. New methods to quantify these rather common complaints are strongly needed in the clinical practice. Coenzyme Q10 administration and aerobic exercise may improve exercise intolerance, but more definite studies are still pending. Herein, we have revised "how to measure" and "how to treat" these symptoms of mitochondrial patients. Subsequently, we reviewed the clinical data of the 1164 confirmed mitochondrial patients present in the Italian nation-wide database of mitochondrial disease, with special regard to exercise intolerance. We observed that more of 20% of mitochondrial patients complain of exercise intolerance. This symptom seems to be frequently associated with specific patient groups and/or genotypes. Ragged red fibers and COX-negative fibers are more often present in subjects with exercise intolerance, whereas lactate levels could not predict this symptom. Multicenter efforts are strongly needed for rare disorders such as mitochondrial diseases, and may represent the basis for more rigorous longitudinal studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Fatigue* / diagnosis
  • Fatigue* / genetics
  • Humans
  • Mitochondrial Diseases* / diagnosis
  • Mitochondrial Diseases* / genetics
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Ubiquinone / analogs & derivatives
  • Ubiquinone / metabolism


  • Ubiquinone
  • coenzyme Q10