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BACKGROUND: Fatigue is the inability to achieve or maintain an expected work output resulting from central or peripheral mechanisms. The prevalence of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) fatigue can reach 86% in active disease, persisting in 50%-52% of patients with mild to inactive disease. Fatigue is the commonest reason for work absence in IBD, and patients often report fatigue burden to be greater than that of primary disease symptoms. Relatively few evidence-based treatment options exist, and the aetiology is poorly understood. AIM: To review the available data and suggest a possible aetiology of IBD fatigue and to consider the efficacy of existing management strategies and highlight potential future interventions. METHODS: We reviewed fatigue-related literature in IBD using PubMed database. RESULTS: Disease related factors such as inflammation and pharmacological treatments negatively impact skeletal muscle and brain physiology, likely contributing to fatigue symptoms. Secondary factors such as malnutrition, anaemia, sleep disturbance and psychological comorbidity are potential determinants. Immune profile, faecal microbiota composition and physical fitness differ significantly between fatigued and non-fatigued patients, suggesting these may be aetiological factors. Solution-focused therapy, high-dosage thiamine supplementation and biological therapy may reduce fatigue perception in IBD. The effect of physical activity interventions is inconclusive. CONCLUSIONS: A multimodal approach is likely required to treat IBD fatigue. Established reversible factors like anaemia, micronutrient deficiencies and active disease should initially be resolved. Psychosocial intervention shows potential efficacy in reducing fatigue perception in quiescent disease. Restoring physical deconditioning by exercise training intervention may further improve fatigue burden.

Original publication




Journal article


Aliment Pharmacol Ther

Publication Date





368 - 387


Colitis, Exercise, Fatigue, Humans, Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, Physical Fitness, Quality of Life