“Fatigue is extreme tiredness due to physical or mental stress or an illness,” says Gupta, who practices with Premier HealthNet. “Physical fatigue is a decrease in the efficiency of a person’s muscles or organs to initiate or maintain activity. Whereas mental fatigue is a decrease in one’s response or enthusiasm to do something.”
Gupta says it’s important to understand there is a difference between fatigue and being tired or drowsy. The difference often lies in the duration and severity of each.
“Someone who is tired may say ‘I can’t go to the movie tonight because I’m just feeling tired,’” she says. “If someone says, ‘I want to go to the movie, but I am too tired. I can’t go today, tomorrow and maybe not for a week or month,’ then that is fatigue.”
According to the NIH, fatigue is a common symptom that is usually not due to a serious disease. However, there are cases where fatigue may signal an underlying physical or mental condition. Fatigue that is not relieved by proper sleep, good nutrition or decreased stress should be evaluated by a physician.
The pattern of a person’s fatigue as well as the presence of other signs or symptoms will help a physician determine its cause.
“If someone is tired, but they don’t have an explanation as to why then we have to look for other little clues that may lead us to the cause,” Gupta says. “As health care practitioners, we have developed the senses that help lead us to the source. If someone’s feet are swollen then the fatigue may be related to the heart or if they have shortness of breath it could be the lungs.”
Fatigue can be a symptom of many different medical issues such as anemia; depression or grief; maintenance medications such as those for hypertension; persistent pain; sleep disorders such as insomnia or sleep apnea; thyroid glands that are either underactive or overactive; and the use of alcohol or drugs. Other chronic disease such as heart failure, diabetes, fibromyalgia and arthritis can also cause fatigue.
Gupta says there are many steps an individual can take to alleviate their fatigue, and determine if they need to seek medical advice:
- Recent illnesses: Consider any illnesses you may have experienced over the past two to three months. Many illnesses can wear down the body and leave someone fatigued. It can often take time for the body to return to normal, however, it should resolve itself within one month.
- Lifestyle habits: Look at your schedule and determine if it is overbooked. A busy schedule can often rob a person of needed sleep. Poor diet and a lack of exercise can also cause fatigue.
- New medications: One side effect of many medications is drowsiness. Ask your physician if a recently prescribed medication may need to be switched to alleviate fatigue as a side effect.
- Mental and emotional reasons: Fatigue is often caused by mental issues. Depression or past traumatic events or anxiety can interfere with healthy sleep patterns and also leaves a person feeling unmotivated. Work with your physician to determine if medication or counseling would be a good way to address mental stress.
- Warning signs: Look for any other signs or symptoms if none of the above apply to your situation. This may include rashes on the body, swelling or shortness of breath.
For more information on fatigue or to find a Premier HealthNet healthcare provider near you, visit www.premierhealthnet.com/doctor.