Chronic fatigue in type 1 diabetes: highly prevalent but not explained by hyperglycemia or glucose variability

Diabetes Care. 2014;37(1):73-80. doi: 10.2337/dc13-0515. Epub 2013 Aug 15.


OBJECTIVE Fatigue is a classical symptom of hyperglycemia, but the relationship between chronic fatigue and diabetes has not been systematically studied. We investigated prevalence, impact, and potential determinants of chronic fatigue in patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM). RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS Out of 324 randomly selected T1DM outpatients, 214 participated in this cross-sectional observational study. Participants were compared with age- and sex-matched population-based controls. Chronic fatigue, functional impairments, current health status, comorbidity, diabetes-related factors, and fatigue-related cognitions and behaviors were assessed with questionnaires, and HbA1c values and comorbidity were assessed with medical records. Sixty-six patients underwent continuous glucose monitoring combined with an electronic fatigue diary for 5 days. Acute fatigue and four glucose parameters were determined: mean, variability, and relative time spent in hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia. RESULTS T1DM patients were significantly more often chronically fatigued (40%; 95% CI 34-47%) compared with matched controls (7%; 95% CI 3-10%; P < 0.001). Chronically fatigued patients had significantly more functional impairments. Fatigue was the most troublesome symptom. Age, depression, pain, sleeping problems, low self-efficacy concerning fatigue, and physical inactivity were significantly associated with chronic fatigue. Chronically fatigued patients spent slightly less time in hypoglycemia (proportion 0.07 ± 0.06 vs. 0.12 ± 0.10; P = 0.025). Glucose parameters were not related to acute fatigue. CONCLUSIONS Chronic fatigue is highly prevalent and clinically relevant in T1DM. Its significant relationship with cognitive behavioral variables and weak association with blood glucose levels suggests that behavioral interventions could be helpful in managing chronic fatigue in T1DM.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / etiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / complications*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / psychology
  • Fatigue / blood
  • Fatigue / etiology*
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Hyperglycemia / complications*
  • Hypoglycemia / complications
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sedentary Behavior
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / etiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Blood Glucose