BACKGROUND: Fatigue is a common, but poorly understood symptom in patients with chronic gastrointestinal (GI) diseases. AIM: To evaluate factors of importance for fatigue in patients with chronic GI diseases, and to compare it with fatigue in the general population. METHODS: In all, 399 patients attending a GI out-patient clinic completed questionnaires assessing fatigue, sleep disturbances, psychological general well-being and GI symptom severity. The patients were divided into two diagnostic groups: functional GI disorders (n = 112) and organic GI diseases (n = 287). The severity of fatigue was also evaluated in an age- and gender-matched group of 399 individuals from the general population. RESULTS: Both patient groups had more severe fatigue than controls and patients with functional GI disorders were more fatigued than patients with an organic GI disease. Fatigue was associated with psychological general well-being, GI symptom severity, gender, employment status and sleep disturbances. In a linear regression analysis, psychological general well-being (vitality, general health, self-control), sleep disturbances and employment status were independently associated with the severity of fatigue (adjusted R(2) = 55%). CONCLUSIONS: Fatigue is a troublesome symptom in a subgroup of patients with chronic GI diseases. These patients have a high symptom burden as regards both GI and psychological symptoms, as well as sleep disturbances.
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