What is Fatigue?
Anyone of us may have the feeling of tiredness after a heavy working day; this is temporary and once you get some rest, you will be ok. In this article we are discussing the other form of persistent tiredness despite getting enough rest; chronic fatigue. Chronic fatigue usually affects the life of the patient, he feels tired all the time.
What Causes Fatigue?
Lots of causes may lead to chronic fatigue, following are some of them:
- Anemia especially iron deficiency anemia
- Long grief
- Pain for long period of time
- Some drugs; such as, antidepressants
- Thyroid diseases; especially, hypothyroidism
- Sleep disorders; for example, obstructive sleep apnea
- Drug abuse; such as cocaine
- Alcohol abuse
Chronic Fatigue may be an Early Sign of Several Diseases
- Eating disorders; for example, anorexia nervosa
- Addison’s disease
- Arthritis; such as, rheumatoid arthritis
- Heart failure
- Systemic lupus erythematosus
- Liver diseases; for example, hepatitis
- Endocarditis which is the bacterial infection of the valves in the heart
- Infectious mononucleosis
- Kidney failure and dialysis
- Chronic fatigue syndrome which is a diagnosis of exclusion; if chronic fatigue persists more than six months with no improvement and after the exclusion of all other possible diagnoses, we can diagnose the chronic fatigue syndrome.
There are many factors that can contribute to your feelings of fatigue, but here are some of the common causes that you can consider.
Active Diseases, Conditions, and Treatments – Diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation, lupus, fibromyalgia, diabetes, or cancer can cause feelings of fatigue. Such illnesses and conditions release chemicals and viruses such as cold and flu that cause physical fatigue. They also contribute to a weakened immune system that makes your body susceptible to things that cause physical strain.
Drugs and Medication
Many drugs used to treat various sicknesses have side effects that cause fatigue. Antidepressants, antihistamines, and steroids can cause feelings of sluggishness, decrease your concentration, and make you feel light-headed. Studies in the Archives of Internal Medicine have proven that many prescription statin medications used to treat low cholesterol can cause fatigue.
There are also many joint pain supplements which can reduce the pain caused by various joint conditions such as arthritis, osteoarthritis, etc. One such product to look out for is Omega XL which consist of powerful ingredients which target the root cause of joint pain.
Irregular Sleep Cycles
Those with sleep problems such as sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and insomnia commonly suffer from fatigue. Disturbances in your sleep cause you anxiety and stress, which can lead to fatigue. This can be caused not only by sleeping disorders such as the ones mentioned above, but also jetlag, working late, or constant disturbances such as a crying baby or loud noises. Alternatively, too much sleep or extended periods of sleep during the day can also cause fatigue.
Individuals who are overweight or underweight are more likely to experience fatigue than someone who is healthy and physically fit.
Obese people are exerting extreme amount of work on their bodies and are also more prone to other diseases. Underweight people often lack strength and can get tired easily. Eating the right kind of food is important in order to give your body the strength it needs.
Depression and Mental Health Issues
Fatigue is common for those who are depressed or suffer from mental illnesses such as eating disorders, substance abuse, or anxiety. All these things can stress and makes any individual suffering from them more prone to fatigue. Your body deals with stress by releasing adrenaline to combat whatever crisis you are facing. If you are constantly stressed, your body is continuously at work, which causes exhaustion. Depression is very draining and already reduces energy levels.
Chronic Pain – If you experience constant and persistent pain, it is only natural that your body will feel drained and exhausted. It can cause your muscles to weaken, which puts more strain on your joint causing more fatigue.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Fatigue?
Fatigue is a mental state of being tired and weak. When you are fatigued, your limbs feel heavy and moving to do small tasks takes a great amount of effort. You may display exhaustion similar to the kind you would have if you had the flu. Another sign is a large drop in your energy level and focus.
The major symptom of fatigue is the sensation of severe exhaustion after any activity which doesn’t relieve with rest. Chronic fatigue disables the patient thus he can’t resume his routine activities. Most patients describe it as being overwhelmed and tired all the time. Some of them may describe it as loss of interest in doing anything; always keep in mind that fatigue is a very common compliant between depressed patients.
How To Diagnose Fatigue?
As we mentioned before, fatigue is a general symptom for multiple illnesses so it’s very crucial to evaluate the patient’s condition in a comprehensive way. Following is the best way to diagnose the cause of fatigue:
- Evaluation of the Complaint of Fatigue: It’s important to know some details about the complaint itself; for example, the onset, duration, character, timing, any associated symptoms, and any relieving factors.
- Take full details about the sleeping hours and pattern of the patient: Sleep is much related to the fatigue, it’s very important to take full details about the sleeping hours, sleeping patterns, total sleeping hours, and other details.
- Full Medical History: Evaluation of the patient for any previous illnesses, any recent health problems, and any medications that he used to take regularly.
- Life Pattern: It’s very useful to ask about the pattern of the patient’s life, diet, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and emotional problems
- Examination: The doctor will do a full physical exam for the patient.
- Diagnostic Tests: Many tests may be done for the patient to rule out any physical cause of fatigue; those may include, blood tests, urine tests, imaging studies, x-rays, etc.
What are the Types of Fatigue?
Physical fatigue is the more commonly known type of fatigue that people experience, but mental fatigue is just as common. Usually, the two go hand-in-hand, and if you are experiencing physical fatigue, you are feeling mental fatigue as well. Just as physical fatigue decreases your ability to perform physically, mental fatigue decreases your ability to perform mentally. Those experiencing mental fatigue feel tired and cannot seem to concentrate and exercise their thoughts properly.
Another type of fatigue is emotional fatigue, which makes people irritable and emotional. People experiencing emotional fatigue are prone to mood swings or outbursts. None of those kinds of fatigue are the same as chronic fatigue syndrome, which is a symptom related to arthritis. You should be able to get treatment or help in order to manage any sort of fatigue you might have.
Impact of Fatigue on Your Life
There is no exact or precise way to measure fatigue, but you can ask your doctor to help you manage the fatigue you are experiencing. You can try to assess the level of your fatigue by rating on a scale the following: the severity of your fatigue, the level of stress caused by your fatigue, your physical and mental tiredness, your ability to cope with your fatigue, and level of effect you think your fatigue has on your life.
Don’t be afraid to admit that fatigue is affecting your daily life. Experts say that 10% of people suffer from persistent tiredness and one in every 5 claims that their fatigue is severe and interferes with their daily life. Fatigue can prevent you from performing the tasks you need to do and can interfere with plans you made ahead of time. It can make you too tired and exhausted to the point where you feel as though you need to lie down and rest before you can carry on with your day.
What is the Treatment for Fatigue?
Treatment of fatigue depends mainly on the cause of it. If the cause is physical, the patient should be treated depending on this physical cause. If the cause is emotional, it’s better to convert the case to a specialist in this field to treat it. If you suspect depression, tell your patient to consult a psychiatrist to arrange a proper management plan.
If you have been diagnosed with depression, once you treat depression, your fatigue will improve. But keep in mind that some antidepressants may itself cause fatigue. Try to arrange that with your doctor.
Always remember that stimulants; especially caffeine, are not a good way to treat fatigue. In fact, those may make your fatigue worse once you stop them.
What CFIDS Association of America is Saying About Fatigue?
Depending on the chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome association of America:
- More than one million patients in US have chronic fatigue syndrome
- There is no specific number regarding the prevalence worldwide
- The peak incidence of chronic fatigue syndrome is 40 to 59
- Anyone at any age may suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome
- Women are more susceptible than men to have chronic fatigue
- It’s very rare for children to have chronic fatigue, some children may suffer from it
Can Fatigue be Prevented?
Following are some tips to prevent fatigue:
- Sleep enough time on a good relaxing environment
- Eat balance healthy diet
- Drink enough amount of water daily
- Do regular exercises
- Yoga is a great option for relaxation
- Don’t overwork, be reasonable
- Try to avoid any stressful conditions
- Avoid alcohol
- Avoid drug abuse
- Stop smoking
How to deal with Fatigue
Try to identify what is causing your fatigue then determine ways to help you manage or reduce it. Speak to a doctor about the problems you are having and ask for help in pinpointing the cause of coming up with a solution. Don’t self-medicate without seeking professional help first and never let your fatigue prevent you from living your life.
ConsumerHealthDigest Medical References:
- Kirwan JR, Minnock P, Adebajo A, et al. Patient perspective: fatigue as a recommended patient centered outcome measure in rheumatoid arthritis. J Rheumatol 2007; 34:1174–7.
- Repping-Wuts H, Hewlett S, van Riel P, et al. Fatigue in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: British and Dutch nurses’ knowledge, attitudes and management. J Adv Nurs 2009;65:901–11
- Belza BL. Comparison of self-reported fatigue in rheumatoid arthritis and controls. J Rheumatol 1995; 22:639–43
- Cella D, Lai JS, Stone A. Self-reported fatigue: one dimension or more? Lessons from the Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy Fatigue (FACIT-F) questionnaire. Support Care Cancer 2011; 19:1441–50