FatigueBy Mayo Clinic staff
Original Article: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/fatigue/MY00120
Nearly everyone struggles with being overtired or overworked from time to time. Such instances of temporary fatigue usually have an identifiable cause and a likely remedy.
Chronic fatigue, on the other hand, lasts longer and is more profound. It's a nearly constant state of weariness that develops over time and diminishes your energy and mental capacity. Fatigue at this level impacts your emotional and psychological well-being, too.
Fatigue isn't the same thing as sleepiness, although it's often accompanied by a desire to sleep — and a lack of motivation to do anything else.
In some cases, fatigue is a symptom of an underlying medical problem that requires medical treatment. Most of the time, however, fatigue can be traced to one or more of your habits or routines.
Taking a quick inventory of the things that might be responsible for your fatigue is the first step toward relief. In general, most cases of fatigue may be attributed to three areas: lifestyle factors, medical conditions or psychological problems.
Feelings of fatigue often have an obvious cause, such as:
- Alcohol use or abuse
- Caffeine use
- Excessive physical activity
- Lack of sleep
- Medications, such as antihistamines, cough medicines and cold remedies
- Unhealthy eating habits
Unrelenting exhaustion may be a sign of a medical condition or underlying illness, such as:
- Acute liver failure
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Chronic kidney failure
- Heart disease
- Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
- Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
- Medications, such as prescription pain medications, heart medications, blood pressure medications and some antidepressants
- Restless legs syndrome
- Sleep apnea
- Type 1 diabetes
- Type 2 diabetes
Fatigue is a common symptom of mental health problems, such as:
- Depression (major depression)
When to see a doctor
Schedule a doctor's visit
Call for an appointment with your doctor if your fatigue has persisted for two or more weeks despite making an effort to rest, reduce stress, choose a healthy diet and drink plenty of fluids.
Seek immediate medical attention
Get someone to take you to an emergency room or urgent care if fatigue is accompanied by:
- Abnormal bleeding, including bleeding from your rectum or vomiting blood
- Severe abdominal, pelvic or back pain
- Severe headache
Call 911 or your local emergency medical service
Get emergency help if your fatigue is related to a mental health problem and your symptoms also include:
- Thoughts of harming yourself or of suicide
- Concern that you may harm someone else
Also get emergency care if your fatigue is accompanied by any of the following:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Irregular or fast heartbeat
- Feeling that you might pass out
- Walsh D, et al. Palliative Medicine. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2009. http://www.mdconsult.com/das/book/body/205836455-3/0/2038/166.html?tocnode=57251146&fromURL=166.html#4-u1.0-B978-0-323-05674-8..50165-1_2909. Accessed Dec. 28, 2012.
- Ferri FF. Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2013: 5 Books in 1. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2012. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/about.do?eid=4-u1.0-B978-0-323-08373-7..00002-9&isbn=978-0-323-08373-7&about=true&uniqId=343863096-23. Accessed Dec. 28, 2012.
- LeBlond RF, et al. DeGowin's Diagnostic Examination. 9th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2009. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=534. Accessed Dec. 28, 2012.
- Fosnocht KM, et al. Approach to the adult patient with fatigue. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Dec. 28, 2012.
- Wilkinson JM (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Jan. 27, 2013.