Fatigue in young adults with juvenile idiopathic arthritis 18 years after disease onset: data from the prospective Nordic JIA cohort

Pediatr Rheumatol Online J. 2021 Mar 18;19(1):33. doi: 10.1186/s12969-021-00499-0.


Background: To study fatigue in young adults with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) 18 years after disease onset, and to compare with controls.

Methods: Consecutive children with onset of JIA between 1997 and 2000, from geographically defined areas of Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland were followed for 18 years in a close to population-based prospective cohort study. Clinical features, demographic and patient-reported data were collected. Inclusion criteria in the present study were a baseline visit 6 months after disease onset, followed by an 18-year follow-up with available self-reported fatigue score (Fatigue Severity Scale (FSS), 1-7). Severe fatigue was defined as FSS ≥4. For comparison, Norwegian age and sex matched controls were used.

Results: Among 377 young adults with JIA, 26% reported severe fatigue, compared to 12% among controls. We found higher burden of fatigue among participants with sleep problems, pain, poor health, reduced participation in school/work, physical disability, active disease, or use of disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs)/biologics/systemic steroids. In contrast, participants without these challenges, had fatigue scores similar to controls. Active disease assessed at all three time points (baseline, 8-year and 18-year follow-up) was associated with higher mean fatigue score and higher percentage of severe fatigue compared to disease courses characterized by periods of inactive disease. Predictors of fatigue at the 18-year follow-up were female sex and diagnostic delay of ≥6 months at baseline, and also pain, self-reported poor health, active disease, and previous/ongoing use of DMARDs/biologics at 8 years.

Conclusions: Fatigue is a prominent symptom in young adults with JIA, with higher fatigue burden among participants with poor sleep, pain, self-reported health problems, active disease, or use of DMARDs/biologics. Participants without these challenges have results similar to controls. Patient- and physician-reported variables at baseline and during disease course predicted fatigue at 18-year follow-up.

Keywords: Fatigue; Health-related quality of life (HRQoL); Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA); Long-term outcomes; Patient-reported outcomes; Young adults.