For women with endometriosis, chronic fatigue can be a constant companion, and now a brand-new study completed in Switzerland has put hard figures to that chief complaint by exploring the frequency of endometriosis-triggered fatigue.
The new research published in the journal Human Reproduction analyzed 1,120 women with endometriosis and 560 without the disease. All the women in the study were asked to answer a questionnaire which included questions not only related to their endometriosis, but also their medical and family histories and general lifestyles. Fatigue incidence was rated from one to five, with one being never and five being most frequent. Results revealed that 50.7 percent of women with endometriosis reported experiencing frequent fatigue, compared to only 22.4 percent of women without the condition. This remained true even after the researchers took other factors into account such as the volunteers’ BMI and their history of depression and insomnia.
These results suggest that fatigue is a stand-alone symptom of endometriosis. The team hopes that studies such as this can help scientists better understand endometriosis-related fatigue and help doctors better treat this debilitating symptom.
“One of the motivations for our research was to encourage professionals providing health support to women diagnosed with endometriosis to offer a more holistic approach and include support to whatever endometriosis means for these women in addition to (anti-)hormonal treatments and surgery,” lead study author Professor Brigitte Leeners, deputy head of the Department of Reproductive Endocrinology at the University Hospital Zurich, Switzerland, tells EndoFound exclusively.
Past research has also shown that women with endometriosis-related fatigue may experience increases in fatigue around their periods. In the most severe cases, the fatigue can cause women to take long frequent naps and feel faint if they rise or move too quickly. The new study also revealed a link between fatigue with endometriosis and with significant increases in insomnia and depression.
“Women with endometriosis often feel exhausted, even in days where they do not experience intense pain,” says Leeners. “Their fatigue may be of varying intensity, and they are unable to predict when it will be intense so that it is often difficult to adjust professional and leisure time activities.”
The true link between endometriosis and fatigue remains unclear, but researchers have a hunch as to why the two may be connected. One of the main hallmarks of the disease are lesions that form throughout the body thanks to wayward endometrial cells, which respond to monthly hormonal fluctuations. The study suggests that these lesions induce an immune system response from the body in the form of inflammation. Past research has shown that cytokines, the cells involved with communicating inflammatory responses throughout the body, are also responsible for inducing fatigue in patients.
However, more research will be needed to confirm this theory.
Also, this study was based strictly off of patient questionnaire answers and designed to explore the prevalence of fatigue, not uncover its underlying cause.