Fatigue, also commonly referred to as tiredness, lethargy and exhaustion, is something we all experience from time to time. It can be the result of a long day at work or school, physical activity, or lack of sleep; even certain medications such as antidepressants and antihistamines can cause weariness. This kind of fatigue is fairly easy to treat. If medication is the problem, Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician based in Vancouver, will work with patients to figure out a dose that is suitable and will then hopefully significantly lessen the feeling of tiredness. If you’re not getting enough sleep, try setting a routine by going to bed at the same time each night and making sure you’re getting enough shut-eye – doctors say at least 8 hours of sleep is necessary in order to feel well rested and robust the next day – proper sleep has also been scientifically proven to help school and work performance. If exercise seems to be the cause of your fatigue, don’t overdo it; start slow and work your way up. It may not seem like much, but as little as 30 minutes of exercise can have momentous benefits to your overall health.
So when does fatigue become worrisome? If you are noticing excessive tiredness that does not go away on its own, it may be time to see a doctor. There are many different health conditions that can lead to feeling fatigued, some of which can be serious if left untreated. Below, we will take a look at a few of the most common conditions that are associated with fatigue and how they can be managed.
Chronic fatigue syndrome, also referred to as CFS, is characterized by extreme tiredness (lasting longer than 24 hours) that does not go away with rest or inactivity. According to the Canadian Pain Coalition, there are at least 30,000 Canadians living with chronic fatigue syndrome. However, due to patients often ignoring the signs of chronic fatigue and not seeking treatment, the numbers of those living with CFS may actually be much higher. In addition to extreme tiredness, other signs of chronic fatigue syndrome include weakness, muscle pain, and even headaches. Because the cause of chronic fatigue is unknown, there is currently no diagnostic testing that can be done to determine whether or not a patient in fact has CFS. Instead, a doctor will make that determination based on your symptoms. Unfortunately, since there is also no cure for chronic fatigue, it can be a difficult condition to treat. The best thing a CFS patient can do is make lifestyle changes; create a sleep routine, avoid smoking, coffee and alcohol, and be sure to not overexert yourself.
Hypothyroidism is another common health condition that can cause fatigue. Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland cannot produce a sufficient amount of thyroid hormones known as T3 and T4. To diagnose hypothyroidism, a blood test is done, and treating it is as simple as taking a medication – the most common being Synthroid. Patients with hypothyroidism may sometimes notice that symptoms associated with hypothyroidism will return, which usually mean the medication dose may need to be increased. If left untreated, hypothyroidism can lead to a multitude of other health problems including decreased mental function, infertility and heart problems.
Anemia, a type of blood disorder, can also cause extreme fatigue, and is usually caused by lack of iron in your body. In order to produce hemoglobin, which carries oxygen from your red blood cells to your lungs, your body needs enough iron. Without iron, your body is unable to produce this. Along with fatigue, symptoms of anemia also include dizziness, weakness and shortness of breath. In order to bring enough iron back into your system, it is recommended that you eat more red meat, seafood and dark leafy vegetables. In certain cases, you may need to take an iron supplement, which is available in both pill and liquid form at all pharmacies.
While these are not all of the conditions that cause fatigue, these are certainly ones to watch out for.