In this study, we aimed to address the prevalence of fatigue, its associated factors, and the effect of tumor necrosis factor inhibitors (TNFi) on this subgroup of patients in a large axial spondyloarthritis (axSpA) cohort.
The study included 681 patients [ankylosing spondylitis (AS) and nonradiographic axSpA (nr-axSpA)]. The Fatigue Severity Scale (FSS) and the Bath AS Disease Activity Index question 1 (BASDAI Q1) indices were used for fatigue assessment. Severe fatigue was defined as an FSS ≥ 4 or a BASDAI Q1 ≥ 5. Disease activity, function, and quality of life (QoL) measures were recorded. Patients who had been treated with TNFi were identified, and baseline and followup data were analyzed.
Of the cohort, 67.3% had severe fatigue, and the prevalence was similar between AS (67.2%) and nr-axSpA (68.2%). Severely fatigued patients tended to have higher disease activity scores, increased acute-phase proteins, and decreased QoL measures. TNFi therapy was associated with improvement in disease activity, and although this treatment led to significantly decreased fatigue scores, this reduction was not optimal in the majority of patients with 80% continuing to have severe fatigue according to their posttreatment scores. Health Assessment Questionnaire, mean scores of BASDAI Q5 and Q6, and BASDAI enthesitis were independent predictors of fatigue severity.
Fatigue is a common symptom in axSpA, and the burden of fatigue among patients with nr-axSpA is similar to that seen in AS. While biologics are effective in improving disease activity, their effect on fatigue is more limited. In axSpA, fatigue remains unresponsive to TNFi in nearly 80% of patients.