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Fatigue in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a qualitative study of people's experiences

Authors

  • Caroline Stridsman RN,

    PhD-student, Corresponding author
    1. Department of Health Science, Division of Nursing, Luleå University of Technology, Luleå, Sweden
    2. The OLIN studies, Sunderby Hospital, Luleå, Sweden
    • Correspondence to:

      Caroline Stridsman, The OLIN studies, Robertsviksgatan 9, SE-971 89 Luleå, Sweden.

      E-mail: caroline.stridsman@ltu.se

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  • Anne Lindberg MD, PhD,

    Associate Professor
    1. The OLIN studies, Sunderby Hospital, Luleå, Sweden
    2. Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Division of Medicine, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden
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  • Lisa Skär RN, PhD

    Associate Professor
    1. Department of Health Science, Division of Nursing, Luleå University of Technology, Luleå, Sweden
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Abstract

Background

Fatigue is reported to be one of the most common symptoms among people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease COPD. However, there is hardly any qualitative research describing how fatigue affects people living with this illness.

Aim

To describe people's experience of fatigue in daily life when living with moderate to very severe COPD.

Methods

A purposive sample of 20 people with COPD stages II–IV was recruited from the Obstructive Lung Disease in Northern Sweden COPD study. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews with participants regarding their experience of fatigue. The interviews were subjected to qualitative content analysis.

Results

One theme was identified: Reconcile with the dimensions of fatigue, and four categories were identified: To understand the reasons of fatigue, To preserve fatigue unexpressed, When fatigue takes control and How to manage fatigue. Fatigue seems to be an always-present feeling, involving the whole body, raising feelings of hopelessness and controlling one's life. It seems to be accepted as a natural consequence of COPD and may therefore remain unexpressed. Further, when experienced with dyspnoea, fatigue becomes even heavier and more difficult to manage. To gain control of fatigue, people plan daily life and continue with physical activities.

Conclusion

Fatigue affects the daily lives of people with COPD. Perceived with dyspnoea, fatigue was described as overwhelming. Most importantly, fatigue seems to be unexpressed to healthcare professionals and relatives.

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