Objective: To examine how fatigue may differ from ordinary tiredness in patients with primary Sjögren's syndrome (SS).
Methods: A purposive, heterogeneous sample of individuals with primary SS who had participated in a study that examined the effects of medication on fatigue was asked to participate in individual interviews. Patients were asked about their fatigue before and after the onset of illness, changes due to medications, and how fatigue was experienced in daily life. An inductive thematic analysis founded on a social constructionist perspective was performed.
Results: Five women and 4 men ages 27-76 years participated. Two themes were identified. "A heavy, resistant body and ever-present lack of vitality" represented a profound, ever-present lack of energy along with an unfamiliar bodily heaviness quite different from the experience after alleviation by the drug and being healthy. The patients had scaled down their everyday life in different ways to manage this lack of energy. "Unpredictable and uncontrollable fluctuations in fatigue" expressed how the level of fatigue fluctuated from day to day and even within a particular day. The informants tried to portion out their energy without knowing exactly how much energy they would have at any time. On bad days, patients felt that their "batteries were flat," and they had to put their life on hold.
Conclusion: Fatigue in primary SS clearly differs from ordinary tiredness. Patients describe it as an ever-present, fluctuating, and nonrelievable lack of vitality being beyond one's own control.
Copyright © 2014 by the American College of Rheumatology.