A Swiss study has found that more than half of women with endometriosis experience frequent fatigue at more than twice the rate of women without endometriosis.
Dr Karin Hammarberg from Monash University says the study's findings are important "because they help us better understand the impact of endometriosis on women's overall health and wellbeing".
Endometriosis is a gynaecological inflammatory condition that affects around one in 10 women of menstruating age. It can cause chronic pelvic pain, very painful and heavy periods, pain during intercourse and fatigue.
The symptoms of endometriosis can have major effects on a woman's quality of life, mental health and physical health, and ability to function in daily life.
Until this study was published, little was known about how common fatigue is in women with endometriosis and how it affects their mental and physical health.
Between 2010 and 2016, researchers in Switzerland surveyed 560 women who had been diagnosed with endometriosis and compared them with 560 same-aged women who did not have endometriosis.
They found that more than half of the women with endometriosis – 51% – experienced frequent fatigue, while only 22% of women without endometriosis did.
Further, women with endometriosis and frequent fatigue were more likely than women without endometriosis to experience frequent insomnia (having trouble falling or staying asleep), at 29% versus 13%, depression (27% versus 11%), pain (57% versus 13%), and high work-place related stress (63% versus 55%).
With other research showing that fatigue is a common symptom among people who suffer from other inflammatory conditions, the researchers believed the widespread fatigue in women with endometriosis may be due to the inflammation triggered by the endometriosis activating the immune system, and that this caused the fatigue.
The take-home message from this research is that, because so many women with endometriosis experience frequent fatigue, health care professionals need to be aware of this and ask women about it when they discuss management and treatment of their condition.
Health professionals also need bear in mind the link between frequent fatigue and insomnia, depression, pain and workplace-related stress, and work with women to reduce these symptoms, as this might help reduce fatigue and improve women's quality of life and productivity.
"Knowing that fatigue is a very common symptom of endometriosis means that health professionals can ask their patients about this and talk about how this can be managed," says Dr Hammarberg.