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Alternative namesFatigue is a feeling of weariness, tiredness, or lack of energy.
Fatigue is different from drowsiness . In general, drowsiness is feeling the need to sleep, while fatigue is a lack of energy and motivation. Drowsiness and apathy (a feeling of indifference or not caring about what happens) can be symptoms of fatigue.
Fatigue can be a normal and important response to physical exertion, emotional stress, boredom, or lack of sleep. However, it can also be a nonspecific sign of a more serious psychological or physical disorder. When fatigue is not relieved by enough sleep, good nutrition, or a low-stress environment, it should be evaluated by your doctor. Because fatigue is a common complaint, sometimes a potentially serious cause may be overlooked.
The pattern of fatigue may help your doctor determine its underlying cause. For example, if you wake up in the morning rested but rapidly develop fatigue with activity, you may have an ongoing physical condition like an underactive thyroid. On the other hand, if you wake up with a low level of energy and have fatigue that lasts throughout the day, you may be depressed .
There are many possible physical and psychological causes of fatigue. Some of the more common are:
Fatigue can also accompany the following illnesses:
Certain medications may also cause drowsiness or fatigue, including antihistamines for allergies, blood pressure medicines, sleeping pills, steroids, and diuretics.
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a condition that starts with flu-like symptoms and lasts for 6 months or more. All other possible causes of fatigue are eliminated before this diagnosis is made. Little relieves CFS, including rest.
Here are some tips for reducing fatigue:
If you have chronic pain or depression, treating either often helps address the fatigue. However, some antidepressant medications may cause or worsen fatigue. Your medication may have to be adjusted to avoid this problem. DO NOT stop or change any medications without instruction from your doctor.
Stimulants (including caffeine) are NOT effective treatments for fatigue, and can actually make the problem worse when the drugs are stopped. Sedatives also tend to worsen fatigue in the long run.
Call your health care provider if
Call your doctor right away if:
Call your doctor if:
Your doctor will obtain your medical history and perform a complete physical examination, with special attention to your heart, lymph nodes, and thyroid. He or she may ask questions about your lifestyle, habits, and feelings.
Questions may include:
Diagnostic tests that may be performed include the following:
Update Date: 11/1/2003Jacqueline A. Hart, M.D., Department of Internal Medicine, a division of Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Newton, Ma., and Senior Medical Editor, A.D.A.M., Inc. Previously reviewed by Bridget Martell, M.D., Department of Internal Medicine, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network (11/18/2002).
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT