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Know the Causes and the Treatment of Fatigue

Know the Causes and the Treatment of Fatigue



Fatigue is best described as a lack of energy and motivation - both physical and mental. Individuals who suffer from fatigue usually have no energy to execute basic day-to-day tasks wit efficiency. They tire easily and have difficulty with concentration or suffer from memory loss. 


There are two main types of fatigue - physical fatigue and mental fatigue. Physical fatigue can make previously easy tasks more complex - like climbing stairs or even speaking. Mental fatigue, on the other hand, is more about being unable to concentrate and stay in focus. This leads to symptoms like drowsy or sleeping off between working and performing a task.



What is the difference between sleepiness and fatigue?


Sleepiness is a normal phenomenon that occurs when you lack optimum amount of sleep on a day or when you are simply bored. However, if it happens too frequently, it could be a symptom of conditions like sleep disorder or restless leg syndrome.


Sleepiness is temporary and resolves with sufficient sleep. On the other hand, fatigue is usually associated with a health condition or a problem. For some people, there is no underlying identifiable cause, and it's known as chronic fatigue syndrome.



How common is fatigue?


It is estimated that about 20% of people claim to have fatigue that interferes with daily life. In contrast to fatigue caused by illnesses, a normal person’s fatigue from exhaustion will clear up with a day of reduced physical and mental activity.



What are the symptoms of fatigue?


Exhaustion with physical or mental activity and being unable to feel refreshed after rest or sleep is the hallmark of fatigue. Some symptoms associated with fatigue include:

  • Aching muscles
  • Lack of motivation
  • Drowsiness
  • Problems with bowel
  • Headache
  • The trouble with focus or concentration
  • Moodiness
  • Slow time to react
  • Blurred vision



What are the common causes of fatigue?


Lifestyle factors:

  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Excess exercise
  • Jet lag
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Some medicines like antihistamines or cough medication
  • Lack of sleep
  • Unhealthy food habits


Conditions that can lead to fatigue include:


Mental Health Issues:

  • Stress
  • Grief
  • Eating disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Boredom
  • Emotional exhaustion
  • Major life events


Metabolic problems:

  • Pregnancy
  • Birth control pills
  • Cushing’s syndrome
  • Kidney disease
  • Electrolyte problems
  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid conditions


As side effects of other drugs and medicines:

  • Antidepressants (to reduce symptoms of depression)
  • Anxiety medications (to reduce anxiety)
  • Sedatives (for sleep)
  • Antihypertensive (for high BP)
  • Statins (for high cholesterol)
  • Steroids
  • Antihistamines (for allergy)


Conditions affecting the heart or lungs:

  • Heart disease
  • Pneumonia
  • Asthma
  • COPD


Other factors and causes include:

  • Sleep disorders like late shifts or jet lag
  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
  • Medical conditions like anemia, diabetes, high BP, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, IBS, cancer, etc.
  • Infections like malaria, tuberculosis, flu, or hepatitis
  • Being in chronic pain




How is fatigue treated?


Temporary fatigue caused by exhaustion will resolve itself with a good sleep and a mental & physical rest. However, if the fatigue is constant, your doctor will do more evaluations and try to identify the root cause of the condition before suggesting the right mode of treatment. They will ask about your lifestyle, your habits, and whether there are any medications. They may even ask you for some blood tests to rule out some conditions. If they suspect something is wrong with your heart or any other organ, more tests and diagnostic procedures may be recommended.


However simple and common fatigue may see, if it is severe and affecting your daily life, do not consider it normal. Reach out to a doctor and get help in identifying and treating the root cause. Your doctor may also recommend lifestyle changes like routine, exercise, and food habits.


Dr. Jyoti Wadhwani
Internal Medicine
Meet The Doctor
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