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Fatigue is a term used to to describe the general overall feeling of tiredness and/or a lack of energy. Other words that are sometimes used in place of fatigue include exhaustion, weariness, and lethargy. According to the National Institutes of Health, feeling fatigued is not the same different from just feeling drowsy or sleepy. (NIH) When you are fatigued, you have no motivation and no energy. Being sleepy may be a symptom of fatigue, but it is not the same thing.
The organization also states that fatigue is a very common symptom for a number of medical conditions—both serious and non-serious—and also a natural result of some lifestyle choices.
If your fatigue has no apparent cause, and it not going away with proper rest and nutrition, you should see your doctor. He or she can help to diagnose what is causing your fatigue and work with you to treat it.
There are many potential causes of fatigue, which can be divided into three general categories—lifestyle factors, medical issues, and mental health issues.
If you are experiencing fatigue, your activities and other lifestyle choices may be the root cause. In these cases, the reasons behind your feelings of exhaustion are often fairly easy to pinpoint. Fatigue can be caused by:
Some medical issues and conditions that can lead to fatigue are:
Mental Health Issues
Those who struggle with anxiety and depression may experience fatigue as a symptom of their condition.
You should arrange a visit to your doctor if you are fatigued and:
The Mayo Clinic recommends seeking medical help if you have been experiencing fatigue for two weeks or more and you have made efforts to address the most common lifestyle causes, such as lack of rest, stress, and poor eating habits, without success. (Mayo Clinic)
Because there are so many possible causes of fatigue, the doctor will likely ask you a number of questions about your lifestyle, possible sources of stress, and medications you are taking. He or she will also want to know more about the nature of your fatigue, including when it started and if it gets worse at certain times of the day.
If your doctor suspects an underlying medical condition, he or she may order one or more tests to diagnose it and develop a plan for treatment. Typical tests include blood and urine tests, as well as those that test kidney, liver, and thyroid function.
While fatigue itself is not a medical emergency, you should go to the hospital right away if you experience any of the following symptoms in addition to fatigue:
There are a number of measures that can help lessen fatigue caused by a less-than-ideal lifestyle. If you are fatigued because of the way that you have been living, you should make changes to:
These lifestyle changes—together with your doctor’s treatment plan for any health issues that may be causing your condition—can help ease your fatigue. Remember that although fatigue is a common symptom and complaint, it can take a physical and emotional toll on you if left untreated.
Written by: Krista O'Connell
Updated on Feb 15, 2013
Medically reviewed by George Krucik, MD
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