Fatigue: a distressing symptom for patients with irritable bowel syndrome

Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2017 Jan;29(1). doi: 10.1111/nmo.12898. Epub 2016 Jul 11.


Background: Fatigue is a frequent symptom in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and is associated with poor quality of life. However, few studies have evaluated its impact on daily life or the perceived distress it can cause. Using a multi-methods approach, this study describes the impact and manifestations of fatigue in patients with IBS and investigates the relationship between fatigue severity and illness-related and health-promoting factors.

Methods: A total of 160 patients with IBS completed self-reported questionnaires assessing fatigue, gastrointestinal symptoms, psychological distress, and sense of coherence. Fatigue was assessed with the Fatigue Impact Scale, which also includes structured and open-ended questions which were analyzed with a deductive qualitative analysis. Patients were classified as having severe, moderate, or mild fatigue based on frequency, distress and impact on daily life.

Key results: The open-ended questions revealed a multidimensional impact on life. Fatigue mainly interfered with the ability to perform physical activities, work, and domestic work, and the ability to interact socially. Decreased stamina was evident, along with strategies to limit the bodily consequences of tiredness. Severe fatigue was accompanied by more severe IBS symptoms, anxiety and depression and lower sense of coherence.

Conclusions & inferences: Fatigue is a distressing symptom which occurs in a sizeable proportion of patients with IBS. It affects life in a multidimensional way, with poor bodily stamina being the most prominent feature. Fatigue, along with sense of coherence, depression and anxiety, needs to be assessed, confirmed and targeted for interventions.

Keywords: fatigue; irritable bowel syndrome; multi-methods.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Fatigue / diagnosis*
  • Fatigue / epidemiology*
  • Fatigue / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / psychology
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Self Report*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult