It is estimated that millions of people suffer from fatigue. It is not always apparent what causes their symptoms. Sometimes the cause is clear, and treatment can help. But in other cases the cause is unknown or it is not clear how the symptoms can be treated. Symptoms may last for just a short while, or chronic fatigue may set in. In some diseases, including Lyme disease, Q fever, ME/CFS and long COVID, fatigue is one of the main symptoms.
ME/CFS is a severe, chronic illness for which there is no effective treatment as yet. People suffering from ME/CFS experience pain, sensitivity to light and noise, concentration and memory problems and severe fatigue. Any exertion can exacerbate the symptoms. To help people with ME/CFS, more research is needed on causes, diagnosis and treatment. Such research is being performed as part of the ME/CFS research programme, which launched in December 2022.
Lyme disease is caused by a bite from an infected tick, after which the disease may develop. The symptoms include fever, headache, muscle ache, pain in the joints and fatigue . These symptoms can become worse over the course of months or even years. We are working patients’ organisations, researchers, policymakers, companies and healthcare professionals to facilitate the Lyme disease action plan, which sets out topics for research and other activities associated with the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of Lyme disease.
Q fever is a bacterial infection that can be passed from animals to humans. The main source of Q fever is infected dairy goats and sheep. This disease can become chronic in humans, with symptoms like severe fatigue, concentration and memory problems, pain in the muscles and joints and cardiovascular symptoms/shortness of breath. Since little is known about this disease, we are funding research for the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of Q fever.
In long COVID, also known as post-COVID, people experience the symptoms of COVID-19 for an extended period. One of the possible symptoms is extreme fatigue. ZonMw is facilitating several studies of long COVID, which you can read more about on this special page. People who are hospitalised with severe COVID can recover remarkably quickly. But people who remain at home with COVID can experience symptoms for much longer. Thanks to ZonMw research and new insights from rehabilitation care we are gaining more clarity about appropriate care is for different sufferers. Read more about it in this interview.
Collaboration on research into fatigue
Fatigue also occurs in combination with other diseases – either short-term or chronic – including cancer, muscular diseases, respiratory conditions and brain disease. It is important to work together and share knowledge or data in order to expedite the development of effective treatments for fatigue.
Fatigue knowledge synthesis
Much remains unclear about the causes and treatment of fatigue associated with chronic illness. ZonMw and SGF (a collaborative partnership of all the health funds) therefore commissioned a knowledge synthesis detailing all the knowledge currently available. Dowload the knowledge synthesis or watch the video.
- Read more about the fatigue knowledge synthesis (in Dutch)
- Download the knowledge synthesis (PDF) (in Dutch)
Video: more research needed on severe fatigue (in Dutch)