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Fatigue is a term used to describe an overall feeling of tiredness or lack of energy. It isn’t the same as simply feeling drowsy or sleepy. When you’re fatigued, you have no motivation and no energy. Being sleepy may be a symptom of fatigue, but it’s not the same thing.
Fatigue is a common symptom of many medical conditions, which range in severity from mild to serious. It’s also a natural result of some lifestyle choices, such as lack of exercise or poor diet.
If your fatigue doesn’t resolve with proper rest and nutrition, or you suspect it’s caused by an underlying physical or mental health condition, see your doctor. They can help diagnose the cause of your fatigue and work with you to treat it.
There are many potential causes of fatigue. They can be divided into three general categories:
If you’re experiencing fatigue, your activities and other lifestyle choices may be the root cause. For example, fatigue can result from:
Many medical conditions can also cause fatigue. Examples include:
Mental health conditions can also lead to fatigue. For example, fatigue is a common symptom of anxiety, depression, and seasonal affective disorder.
You should make an appointment with your doctor if you’re feeling fatigued and you:
If you’ve made efforts to address the most common lifestyle causes, such as lack of rest, poor eating habits, and stress, without success, and your fatigue has continued for two weeks or more, make an appoint with your doctor.
In some cases, your fatigue might be caused by a serious medical condition. Go to the hospital immediately if you experience fatigue along with any of the following symptoms:
Your doctor’s recommended treatment plan will depend on the cause of your fatigue. To develop a diagnosis, they will likely ask you a number of questions about:
If your doctor suspects you have an underlying medical condition that’s causing your fatigue, they may order one or more tests. For example, they may order blood or urine tests.
A number of measures can help lessen fatigue caused by a less-than-ideal lifestyle. To help boost your energy levels and overall health:
These lifestyle changes may help ease your fatigue. It’s also important to follow your doctor’s recommended treatment plan for any diagnosed health conditions. If left untreated, fatigue can take a toll on your physical and emotional well-being.
Written by: Krista O'Connell
Medically reviewed on: Oct 18, 2016: Elaine K. Luo, MD
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