Multiple sclerosis (MS) patients using an interactive, self-guided fatigue management resource, developed by researchers from the University of Alberta in Canada, reported lower fatigue and improved cognition after three months, showing that fatigue self-management tools can contribute to the treatment of this common MS symptom.
The pilot study, “The Interactive, Fatigue Self-Management Resource: The Road from Development to Testing to Hope for a Potential New Fatigue Management Tool,” was recently presented at the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers (CMSC) 2016 Annual Meeting June 1-4 in National Harbor, Maryland.
The meeting, attracting both MS researchers and clinicians from all over the world with four days of clinical and preclinical symposiums, is considered one of the most important MS-related meetings throughout the year. The session, “Comprehensive Care in MS and Symptom Management,” in addition to the fatigue study, included a number of presentations focused on care improvement.
Fatigue affects up to 90 percent of MS patients, and self-management tools have been frequently employed. But these approaches suffer from a number of drawbacks, as the patient often needs to be involved in a structured program.
Such programs do not always fit a patient’s learning style, or do not tackle particular factors that contribute to a patient’s fatigue. Also, structured programs require access, which isn’t easy for many for many patients.
In an attempt to try another approach, the research team developed an interactive, self-guided fatigue management resource, allowing individuals with MS to personalize their approach to fatigue management. The tool requires active learning, which might contribute to better outcomes.
The resource consisted of an interactive Power Point presentation, which was tested in 35 MS patients with mild to moderate fatigue. The tool allowed participants to learn more about fatigue in MS, to assess and track their own fatigue, as well as identify contributing factors. Such factors could be the presence of depression, sleep problems, drug side effects, lack of physical activity, and strained mental processes.
The patients also had access to practical and evidence-based strategies for fatigue management that they could explore at their own leisure.
Using three different questionnaires and interviews, researchers investigated changes after three weeks, and again after three months.
The team found that patients using the self-management resource experienced less fatigue, including cognitive and psychosocial fatigue, and fewer cognitive difficulties. Patients also showed greater knowledge about fatigue mechanisms, and had adjusted their expectations and behavior. This was also reflected in increased self-confidence and improved quality of life, as well as better communication with other people.