A feeling of a lessened capacity for work and reduced efficiency of accomplishment, usually accompanied by a sense of weariness and fatigue.

Tiredness is not a singular symptom that defines any one particular disease. Rather, tiredness can be a symptom of many different diseases and conditions. The causes of tiredness range from lack of sleep or excessive exercise to significant medical and surgical problems.

The lack of energy associated with tiredness can sometimes cause difficulty with normal daily activities, leading to problems with attentiveness and concentration.

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There can be a large number of factors that cause tiredness

  • Anxiety, depression and stress can make us feel mentally tired. As our mind gets clouded, we are often unable to think clearly, concentrate and take decisions.
  • Lifestyle factors also lead to fatigue. Excessive physical activity, excessive work load , over exertion, improper sleep, boredom, obesity, use of sedating medicines or medicines like anti-depressants, alcoholism or drug abuse, improper diet can cause fatigue.
  • Persons suffering from certain medical issues or conditions like anemia, chronic pain, hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), arthritis, insomnia, sleep apnea, chronic fatigue syndrome, restless legs syndrome and others experience fatigue.

Having explored the possible causes of tiredness, the question remains how do we deal with it?

There can be multiple ways to deal with fatigue. One can resort to some kind of medication like stimulants, vitamins, mineral supplements and immunity boosting medicines to deal with it. However, the side effects of prolonged use of medicines can create further problems in the body. Whilst medicines can provide some instant relief from fatigue, long-term use can harm our health by adversely affecting body organs. The chemicals in medicines are absorbed through the blood stream and these chemicals can build up in body tissue over time. Following prolonged use it can become difficult for the body to detoxify.

Other practices that have been used to help with fatigue include

  • Eating a healthy diet, taking nutritional advice
  • Limiting work hours
  • Increasing periods of rest
  • Practicing relaxation Techniques like meditation, Tai-Chi, Qigong, Yoga
  • Trying complementary healing modalities like Reiki, Radionics, Acupuncture, Kinesiology
  • Trying alternative medicines like Ayurveda, Flower Essences, Homeopathy or Chinese herbs.
  • Taking regular exercise

A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.

It is possible to develop chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing CFS. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.

There may be other associated symptoms depending upon the underlying cause.

  • Individuals with heart disease, lung disease, or anemia may complain of associated shortness of breath or tiring easily with minimal activity.
  • Persons with diabetes may complain of polyuria (excess urination), polydypsia (excess thirst), or change of vision.
  • Those who have hypothyroidism may also have symptoms of feeling cold, dry skin and brittle hair.

It is important that the health care professional consider the complaint of fatigue in the context of the whole patient to try to come to an accurate causative diagnosis.

  1. Does the patient feel well in the morning when they wake?
  2. Does the fatigue progress through the day?
  3. Does the person nap unexpectedly or take excessive amounts of stimulants such as caffeine to complete daily activities?
  4. Does the fatigue come on gradually or abruptly?
  5. Is it a daily occurrence or intermittent/periodic?
  6. What makes it better and what makes it worse?
  7. How has the patient's life changed because of the fatigue?
  8. Is the fatigue more mental than physical?

Other associated symptoms with fatigue include:

  • weight loss,
  • chest pain and shortness of breath,
  • vomiting and diarrhea,
  • fevers and chills,
  • muscle weakness or pain, and/or
  • anxiety and depression.

It is also appropriate for the health care professional to ask questions about the patient's social situation and to also ask about their psychologic state of mind. Alcohol and drug abuse screening questions should be expected as routine.

Since fatigue is a symptom of an underlying condition, the treatment depends upon the condition that is causing the fatigue, regardless of whether it is physical, psychological or a combination of the two.

There may be a lag time between when the illness has been treated and the intensity of fatigue symptoms; some symptoms may resolve as soon as the underlying condition is treated. For example, individuals who are anemic feel much better as soon as their red blood cell count increases, while those recovering from infectious mononucleosis may require weeks to have their energy levels return to normal.

Fatigue as a symptom can occur as the result of many causes and therefore, prevention is not an issue. More importantly, the early recognition of fatigue will allow a person to seek medical care and potentially have an earlier diagnosis of the underlying cause made.

Sometimes, symptoms like fatigue arise gradually and it is difficult for the person to realize that there is a problem. It may take an outside perspective from a friend or family member to appreciate a difference in function. Self-awareness of gradual decline in body performance is often difficult as a person makes repeated small accommodations to complete daily activities.

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