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Fatigue a 'major problem' for stroke survivors in early days of recovery

07-Mar-17
Article By: Charley Walker

Almost half of people who have experienced a stroke suffer from ‘an overwhelming feeling of exhaustion’ in the early days of their recovery, new findings suggest.

A landmark study has, for the first time, given a more accurate estimate of the number of stroke survivors who suffer from fatigue, by excluding those who present with dysphasia, dementia and depression, which may previously have skewed results.

While fatigue has often been reported as a problem for stroke survivors, previous estimates of how many people are affected have varied from one-quarter to almost three-quarters of stroke survivors.

The new, more specific study carried out by the University of Nottingham revealed that almost half (43 per cent) of patients reported experiencing fatigue and for 62 per cent, this was a new, post-stroke symptom.

Principle research Avril Drummond, professor of healthcare research and director of research for the School of Health Sciences at the University of Nottingham, said: “Fatigue is not feeling tired; the terms are not the same.

“Fatigue is an overwhelming feeling of exhaustion which doesn’t improve with sleep or rest and which isn’t related to activity.

“Fatigue is a major problem for stroke survivors and affects all aspects of their lives. It can be a key factor in reducing participation in rehabilitation after stroke, and this can have a real impact on recovery. People simply do not reach their fullest potential.

“It is incredibly important that clinicians become more aware of fatigue as it has a huge impact on rehabilitation and quality of life.”

Funded by the Stroke Association, the 18-month long study assessed patients for self-reported fatigue, mobility and daily activities, sleep, mood and emotional factors, and cognitive abilities, within four weeks of experiencing a stroke.

Researchers at the University of Nottingham then followed up with patients in the longer term, findings of which will be published “in due course” according to Professor Drummond.

Dr Dale Webb, director of research and information at the Stroke Association, hopes these findings will help to improve rehabilitation and support for stroke survivors.

He said: “We are delighted to have supported this research, and hope that it will help lift the veil on what is one of the most distressing, poorly understood, and inadequately managed conditions caused by stroke.

“There is so much more that needs to be done, but this research is a significant step towards getting these stroke survivors the support they so desperately need.”

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