Fatigue with Endometriosis

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Fatigue is a symptom of endometriosis and can be quite debilitating (Ramin-Wright et al., 2018). Taber’s Medical Dictionary (n.d.) defines fatigue as “an overwhelming sustained feeling of exhaustion and diminished capacity for physical and mental work.” Fatigue with an illness often does not improve with rest (Louati & Berenbaum, 2015).

Endometriosis is an inflammatory disorder, and this inflammation can lead to fatigue. Inflammatory molecules, such as prostaglandins, cytokines, etc., contribute to fatigue as well as problems with “sleep, cognition, anxiety, and depression” (Poon et al., 2015; Zielinski, Systrom, & Rose, 2019). Chronic low-grade inflammation can cause a reduction in energy on the cellular level (Lacourt et al., 2018). In a circular pattern, inflammation can lead to pain, sleep problems, stress, and depression….which can lead to more inflammation. In addition, hormones, “mainly estradiol,” can “promote the expression and release of pro-inflammatory factors” (García-Gómez et al., 2020). Endometriosis lesions have shown higher amounts of estrogen receptors as well as progesterone resistance- making them susceptible to inflammatory promotion from estrogen (see Role of Estrogen Receptor in Endometriosis).

Pain can lead to sleep problems, and sleep disorders can also cause more inflammation, leading to more pain and fatigue (Lacourt et al., 2018; Zielinski, Systrom, & Rose, 2019). On a good note: “melatonin therapy has been shown to attenuate inflammatory cytokines…thus could potentially be beneficial in combating fatigue” (Zielinski, Systrom, & Rose, 2019). Stress, even good stress, can take a toll on your body and mind. Chronic stress can lead to more inflammation which can contribute to feelings of fatigue (Zielinski, Systrom, & Rose, 2019). Inflammation can affect neurotransmitters which can affect both fatigue and mood (Zielinski, Systrom, & Rose, 2019).  Lee & Giuliani (2019) report that “depression and fatigue are associated with an increased activation of the immune system which may serve as a valid target for treatment.” They also note that “antidepressants have been shown to decrease inflammation” (Lee & Giuliani, 2019).

So we see that many things can contribute to fatigue. Fatigue is difficult to treat, especially if the underlying cause is not addressed. Ramin-Wright et al. (2018) states that “as fatigue is experienced by numerous women with endometriosis, it needs to be addressed in the discussion of management and treatment of the disease. In addition to treating endometriosis, it would be beneficial to reduce insomnia, depression, pain and occupational stress in order to better manage fatigue.” It is also important to remember that fatigue is a symptom of many disorders, so do not automatically assume that endometriosis is the only cause of your fatigue- it’s important to rule out other causes too.



Lee, C. H., & Giuliani, F. (2019). The role of inflammation in depression and fatigue. Frontiers in immunology10, 1696. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2019.01696

García-Gómez, E., Vázquez-Martínez, E. R., Reyes-Mayoral, C., Cruz-Orozco, O. P., Camacho-Arroyo, I., & Cerbón, M. (2020). Regulation of inflammation pathways and inflammasome by sex steroid hormones in endometriosis. Frontiers in endocrinology10, 935. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.3389/fendo.2019.00935

Lacourt, T. E., Vichaya, E. G., Chiu, G. S., Dantzer, R., & Heijnen, C. J. (2018). The high costs of low-grade inflammation: persistent fatigue as a consequence of reduced cellular-energy availability and non-adaptive energy expenditure. Frontiers in behavioral neuroscience12, 78. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5932180/#:~:text=We%20propose%20that%20chronic%20low,rapid%20generation%20of%20cellular%20energy.

Louati, K., & Berenbaum, F. (2015). Fatigue in chronic inflammation-a link to pain pathways. Arthritis research & therapy17(1), 1-10. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4593220/

Poon, D. C. H., Ho, Y. S., Chiu, K., Wong, H. L., & Chang, R. C. C. (2015). Sickness: From the focus on cytokines, prostaglandins, and complement factors to the perspectives of neurons. Neuroscience & biobehavioral reviews57, 30-45. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0149763415002006

Ramin-Wright, A., Schwartz, A. S. K., Geraedts, K., Rauchfuss, M., Wölfler, M. M., Haeberlin, F., … & Leeners, B. (2018). Fatigue–a symptom in endometriosis. Human reproduction33(8), 1459-1465. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/humrep/article/33/8/1459/5040620?login=true

Taber’s Medical Dictionary. (n.d.). Fatigue. Retrieved from https://www.tabers.com/tabersonline/view/Tabers-Dictionary/757231/all/fatigue

Zielinski, M. R., Systrom, D. M., & Rose, N. R. (2019). Fatigue, sleep, and autoimmune and related disorders. Frontiers in immunology10, 1827. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2019.01827