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Fatigue - An Overview

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Fatigue is a state of constant and extreme exhaustion, tiredness, or weakness; and can be caused due to various reasons. Read the article to know more.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar

Published At March 27, 2023
Reviewed AtMarch 27, 2023

Introduction

Fatigue is a persistent feeling of tiredness or weakness that can be physical, mental or a combination of the two. Everyone is susceptible, and most adults will experience fatigue at some point. Fatigue is a symptom, not a disease. Rather than an underlying medical condition, many people experience fatigue as a result of a combination of lifestyle, social, psychological, and general well-being issues. Although fatigue is sometimes referred to as tiredness, it is distinct from simply feeling tired or sleepy. Everyone gets tired at some point, but it usually goes away after a nap or a few nights of sound sleep. A sleepy person may feel temporarily refreshed after exercising.

If a person gets enough sleep, eats well, and exercises regularly but still find it difficult to perform daily activities, concentrate, or be motivated at normal levels, they may be suffering from fatigue, which requires further investigation. There are two types of fatigue: physical fatigue and mental fatigue.

  • A person suffering from physical fatigue may find it difficult to perform daily tasks such as climbing the stairs. Muscle weakness is one of the symptoms, and a strength test may be required for diagnosis.

  • A person suffering from mental fatigue may find it difficult to concentrate and maintain focus. They may feel sleepy or struggle to stay awake while working.

What Causes Fatigue?

Fatigue can be caused by various conditions, disorders, medications, and lifestyle factors. Fatigue can be a temporary or chronic condition (lasting six months or more). One may be able to alleviate the symptoms by making changes to their diet, medications, exercise routine, or sleeping habits. Doctors can usually treat or help manage an underlying medical condition that causes fatigue. Fatigue may be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  • Lifestyle Habits: Improper diet, excessive alcohol, drug use, excessive stress, and a sedentary lifestyle can all contribute to fatigue. Jet lag is frequently associated with temporary fatigue (the symptoms normally improve in a few days).

  • Medical Conditions: Fatigue is a symptom of various diseases, disorders, and deficiencies affecting various body parts.

  • Sleep Disorders: Sleep apnea, insomnia, and narcolepsy can all lead to extreme exhaustion and long-term fatigue.

  • Treatments and Medications: Fatigue can be caused by various prescription and over-the-counter medications, including antihistamines and blood pressure medications. Fatigue is often seen as a side effect of chemotherapy, bone marrow transplants, and other treatments.

What Medical Conditions Can Cause Fatigue?

Fatigue can be caused by various conditions and disorders. Some of the most common causes of fatigue include:

  • Disease and Infection: Kidney disease, cancer, and multiple sclerosis are just a few of the diseases that cause fatigue. Fatigue can also be a symptom of infections such as mononucleosis, HIV, or the flu.

  • Mental Health Issues: Fatigue from depression or anxiety can make daily activities difficult or impossible.

  • Autoimmune Diseases: Fatigue is a common symptom of autoimmune diseases such as diabetes, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Hormonal Imbalances: Endocrine system (hormone-producing glands in the body) issues can cause exhaustion. Fatigue is frequently caused by hypothyroidism.

  • Chronic Conditions: Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS or myalgic encephalomyelitis) and fibromyalgia can cause severe, long-term fatigue.

  • Heart and Lung Issues: Fatigue is a typical symptom of cardiovascular conditions such as heart disease, POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, and congestive heart failure.

  • Deficiencies: Fatigue is frequently caused by anemia and other vitamin deficiencies (like vitamin D or vitamin B12). Dehydration can cause fatigue because the body requires a lot of fluids to function properly.

  • Weight Issues and Eating Disorders: Anorexia, bulimia, obesity, and being underweight can all cause fatigue and various other symptoms.

What Are the Symptoms of Fatigue?

Exhaustion from physical or mental activity is the primary symptom of fatigue. After resting or sleeping, a person does not feel refreshed. It may also be difficult for them to carry out their daily activities, such as work, housework, and caring for others.

Fatigue is commonly associated with the following symptoms:

  • Muscle ache or soreness.

  • Lack of motivation and apathy.

  • Drowsiness during the day.

  • Having trouble concentrating or learning new tasks.

  • Digestive issues such as bloating, constipation, abdominal pain, or diarrhea.

  • headache.

  • Irritability or depression.

  • Slowed response time.

  • Vision issues, such as blurriness.

Symptoms usually worsen after exertion. They may appear a few hours after physical activity or exercise or the following day. Other signs of fatigue may include:

  • Tired eyes.

  • Whole-body tiredness.

  • Impatience.

  • Tired legs.

  • Malaise.

  • Stiff shoulders.

  • Boredom or lack of motivation.

  • Sleepiness.

How to Reduce Or Relieve Fatigue?

Fatigue is a symptom and not a condition or disease. To reduce fatigue, one must first understand the underlying causes of fatigue. If fatigue is interfering with the quality of life or causing distress, consult with a medical professional. They will assist in determining the cause of the fatigue and will offer suggestions on how to find relief by asking questions. If there is a reasonable chance that the cause of the fatigue is an undiagnosed medical issue, the doctor may recommend certain medical tests (for example, anemia or thyroid dysfunction).

If a medical condition does not cause fatigue, changing the lifestyle may help. One can reduce fatigue by doing the following:

  • Maintain Healthy Sleeping Habits: Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Do not consume caffeine, use electronics, or exercise before bed. Try sleeping and waking up at the same time every day. Ensure that the room is dark and quiet.

  • Avoid Toxins: Abstain from illegal drugs and alcohol consumption.

  • Maintain a Healthy Diet: A healthy diet and plenty of water will nourish and hydrate the body.

  • Manage Stress: Stress management methods such as mindfulness, yoga, meditation, and regular exercise can help relieve stress and gain energy.

  • Consult a Doctor: Schedule an appointment to rule out infections, illness, vitamin deficiency, and other health issues. One should also discuss with a healthcare provider to rule out fatigue from medications.

  • Exercise Frequently: Regular exercise is essential for living a healthy lifestyle. Though it may appear contradictory, vigorous exercise can help one feel more energetic. However, excessive exercise can cause fatigue.

  • Maintain a Healthy Weight: Discuss the ideal weight with a healthcare provider or a nutritionist to maintain within the normal range.

Conclusion

Fatigue can be caused by various medical conditions and lifestyle factors, including diabetes, depression, and chronic pain. If fatigue and sleepiness interfere with a person's daily life, a doctor must be consulted. A person can keep a note of the sleep habits and symptoms, and a doctor can recommend appropriate treatment options after making a diagnosis.

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Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar
Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar

Pulmonology (Asthma Doctors)

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