Review article: description and management of fatigue in inflammatory bowel disease


  • This uncommissioned review article was subject to full peer-review.

Correspondence to:

W. Czuber-Dochan, King's College London, Florence Nightingale School of Nursing & Midwifery, James Clerk Maxwell Building, 57 Waterloo Road, London SE1 8WA, UK.E-mail:



Fatigue is a common and leading concern for patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It is managed inadequately in IBD, and there is little evidence to support interventions.


To examine patients’ experience of and factors contributing to IBD-fatigue, and to appraise its management by patients and healthcare professionals.


Seven electronic databases were searched. Subject headings and free-text searching were used, with no time limit set. Reference lists of retrieved papers were searched manually.


Twenty-eight papers were reviewed. Researchers used terms including ‘fatigue’, ‘low energy’, ‘tiredness’, ‘decline in vitality and vigour’ and ‘reduced energy and vitality’. Different definitions were used to conceptualise fatigue. None of the reviewed studies asked patients to describe the experience of fatigue in their own words. Numerous physical, psychological and situational factors associated with fatigue were identified. Three small randomised control trials reported a favourable effect of infliximab and adalimumab on fatigue. One intervention study reported benefit from a stress management programme and one from solution-focused therapy.


Inconsistent use of terminology, lack of data from patients’ perspective on inflammatory bowel disease-fatigue and lack of evidence to support its management contribute to fatigue being largely ignored or overlooked by healthcare professionals. Future research should explore the experience of IBD-fatigue from the individual patient perspective. Further studies are required to fully explore the factors associated with fatigue and to develop patient-centred interventions to reduce fatigue.