Background. Fatigue is a frequently occurring symptom in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Despite this, relatively few studies have objectively assessed patients’ perceptions of fatigue and the impact of perceived fatigue on their everyday lives.
Objective. The purpose of this study was to describe the prevalence, duration and severity of fatigue among patients with COPD and the impact of perceived fatigue on cognitive, physical and psychosocial functioning in comparison with controls.
Method. The Fatigue Impact Scale, including physical, psychosocial and cognitive dimension and structured questions about the frequency, duration, and severity of fatigue was mailed to 44 outpatients with COPD and 88 randomly selected age- and sex-matched controls. In total 36 patients and 37 controls completed the questionnaire.
Results. Almost half of the patients (47·2%), reported fatigue every day during the preceding month compared with 13·5% of the control group (P < 0·001). The duration of fatigue was more than 6 hours in 52·7% of the patients and 44·4% reported that fatigue was either the worst or one of the worst symptoms they had, compared with 18·9% (P < 0·001) and 10·8% (P < 0·01) in the control group. The patients reported a significantly greater impact of fatigue on cognitive, physical and psychosocial functioning compared with the control group (P < 0·001).
Conclusion. These findings indicate that fatigue is a highly prevalent symptom, which impacts on patients’ functional condition and needs to be professionally assessed and managed.