How Common is Fatigue in Sjogren's?
The often overlooked symptom of Sjogren's
Recently, I've trying to find out more about exactly how common fatigue is among patients with Sjogren’s, in the hope of not only understanding the condition better but also in raising awareness of the systemic aspects of Sjogren’s.
"approximately 70% of [primary Sjogren's] patients suffer from disabling fatigue."
Most studies that look into the breakdown of Sjogren’s symptoms seem to focus on patients with primary Sjogren’s (pSS). I suppose that’s to eliminate noise from other conditions secondary Sjogren’s patients have. By only looking at patients with pSS, researchers can more directly associate the symptoms to Sjogren's, rather than another autoimmune condition.
In a 2010 study published by Oxford Rheumatology, it is stated that chronic fatigue is “one of the most prevalent and debilitating symptoms in primary SS (pSS)” and that “approximately 70% of pSS patients suffer from disabling fatigue.”
up to "96% of pSS patients suffer from significant physical fatigue"
There is also evidence from studies to suggest that when researchers distinguished between physical and mental fatigue, they found that “96% of pSS patients suffer from significant physical fatigue . . ., whereas only 48% of patients report significant mental fatigue.” Interestingly, researchers also found that even after adjusting for depression, patients of Sjogren’s still had greater physical fatigue and reduced activity compared to the control group, though they are not less motivated or more mentally fatigued than the control group.
fatigue is "a major predictor of reduced health-related quality of life."
It’s probably not surprising to us that most studies have found a moderate correlation between depression and fatigue, though it’s not clear if one causes the other or if both are caused by some other factor. It doesn’t seem as though scientists have been able to pinpoint the biological source of fatigue, but one thing is clear: fatigue has a significant impact on patients’ quality of life. Studies have suggested that fatigue is “a major predictor of reduced health-related quality of life in pSS.” While other symptoms like dryness and arthralgia also play a role, “the dominant contribution of fatigue is striking.”
Finally, as of the time of this research, “an effective management strategy has not been identified.” And as far as I know, it remains unidentified to this day.
So, while up to 96% of patients with pSS report significant physical fatigue and up to 70% have "disabling fatigue," with fatigue being a dominant contributor to a patient’s health-related quality of life, it is still often overlooked by physicians as a symptom of Sjogren’s. Even my first rheumatologist thought Sjogren’s would just be dry eyes and dry mouth, and prescribed me with medications for those symptoms only. It is time we do more to raise awareness of the systemic and debilitating symptoms of Sjogren’s. It is a disease that, for a lot of us, affect our whole body and our quality of life.
For the full text of the study, visit here: https://academic.oup.com/rheumatology/article/49/5/844/1787032
How do you manage your fatigue? Share your story in comments or by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.