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Curr Rheumatol Rep. 2012 Dec;14(6):539-48. doi: 10.1007/s11926-012-0277-z.

Peripheral and central mechanisms of fatigue in inflammatory and noninflammatory rheumatic diseases.

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Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology, University of Florida, PO Box 100221, Gainesville, FL 32610-0221, USA.


Fatigue is a common symptom in a large number of medical and psychological disorders, including many rheumatologic illnesses. A frequent question for health care providers is related to whether reported fatigue is "in the mind" or "in the body"-that is, central or peripheral. If fatigue occurs at rest without any exertion, this suggests psychological or central origins. If patients relate their fatigue mostly to physical activities, including exercise, their symptoms can be considered peripheral. However, most syndromes of fatigue seem to depend on both peripheral and central mechanisms. Sometimes, muscle biopsy with histochemistry may be necessary for the appropriate tissue diagnosis, whereas serological tests generally provide little reliable information about the origin of muscle fatigue. Muscle function and peripheral fatigue can be quantified by contractile force and action potential measurements, whereas validated questionnaires are frequently used for assessment of mental fatigue. Fatigue is a hallmark of many rheumatologic conditions, including fibromyalgia, myalgic encephalitis/chronic fatigue syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus, Sjogren's syndrome, and ankylosing spondylitis. Whereas many studies have focused on disease activity as a correlate to these patients' fatigue, it has become apparent that other factors, including negative affect and pain, are some of the most powerful predictors for fatigue. Conversely, sleep problems, including insomnia, seem to be less important for fatigue. There are several effective treatment strategies available for fatigued patients with rheumatologic disorders, including pharmacological and nonpharmacological therapies.

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