Managing fatigue is critical to improving quality of life in stroke survivors, based on a recent scientific statement released by the American Heart Association.
Fatigue, often defined as a feeling of exhaustion from mental or physical activity, is experienced by many patients after stroke. It’s different than depression or feelings of sadness or weakness, and it affects at least half of all stroke survivors worldwide.
In their recent statement published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke, experts highlight the importance of managing fatigue in stroke patients. Studies show that fatigue after stroke is associated with a decreased quality of life, often because patients have trouble resuming their normal social and professional activities. Fatigue after stroke is also associated with poor mental recovery and increased risk of death, which is a major concern for the 33 million stroke survivors worldwide.
The challenge, however, is that there’s very little evidence on the subject. There are no clear standards for the diagnosis and treatment of fatigue, and very few clinical trials have studied this condition specifically. Experts explain that it’s difficult to isolate fatigue from other conditions that contribute to exhaustion, such as depression and chronic pain. These conditions are common in patients with fatigue after stroke and make it challenging to study the effects of fatigue on its own.
Authors also note that existing evidence on the subject is generally poor. Most studies on fatigue after stroke have sample sizes of 40 participants or fewer, which makes it difficult to generalize results.
As a result, experts call for large, clinical trials to better understand the impact of fatigue in stroke survivors. With a growing number of stroke survivors worldwide, finding ways to improve outcomes and quality of life are critical.