Is there more to your chronic fatigue than just tiredness?

Woman with chronic fatigue

What is Chronic Fatigue?

Chronic fatigue or extreme fatigue can be characterized as a serious loss of energy, feeling tired all the time, sleepiness, drowsiness, etc. A person suffering from chronic fatigue feels exerted both mentally and physically and is unable to recover even after a whole day’s rest. Chronic fatigue can develop into CFS or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome if symptoms of severe fatigue persist for more than 6 months and are not due to any other underlying disease or medical condition.

Chronic fatigue is often confused with drowsiness and other symptoms like shortness of breath or dizziness which may be due to some other medical condition. A person suffering from chronic fatigue may exhibit similar symptoms like muscle weakness, depression, inability to complete a task, or unwillingness to pursue daily activities. This may be due to some other illness. If you are suffering from long-term chronic fatigue, it is best to consult a doctor to rule out any other diseases.

Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue

Chronic fatigue may include the following symptoms:

  • Severe lack of energy
  • Feeling fatigued all the time
  • Lethargy and tiredness
  • Lack of concentration and memory
  • Joint pain and swelling
  • Headaches
  • Sore throat
  • Severe exhaustion
  • Malaise
  • Feeling unmotivated to do work
  • Mentally exhausted
  • Sleep disorders like insomnia, hypersomnia, sleep apnea
  • Nightmares
  • Excessive sweating
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Loss of hair
  • Weight loss
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Depression
  • Swelling in the lymph nodes

What causes Chronic Fatigue?

Chronic fatigue may be caused due to many reasons like depression, anxiety, anemia, poor diet, or even other diseases like kidney disease, lung disease, allergies, etc. Let us look into some of the common causes of chronic fatigue.

Depression and Anxiety

Depression along with anxiety is one of the root causes of chronic fatigue. Depression is a common problem and can affect both men and women at any point in life.

Woman-with-depression-anxiety-panic-attack

Postpartum depression is very common among women after childbirth and can take a serious toll on their health. Depression due to family problems like separation from spouse, death of a family member, or other diseases like bipolar disease can cause chronic fatigue.

A person who is depressed may feel anxious all the time, have difficulty falling asleep, or feel nervous and helpless all the time.

Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is another common cause of fatigue and is more common in women. Fibromyalgia can cause extreme fatigue, mood swings, sleep disturbances, and diminished physical activity throughout the day.

Fibromyalgia can cause severe muscle pain and swelling that can cause sleep disturbances which can result in loss of energy and lethargy.

Sleep Disorders

Sleep deprivation can cause chronic fatigue. Sleep disorders like sleep apnea and insomnia can wake you up in the middle of the night. This can keep you sleep-deprived throughout the day and as a result, you may lose focus and concentration even at work.

Poor sleep can cause irritation, mood swings, anxiety, and make you feel exhausted throughout the day. Conditions like obstructive sleep apnea can cause breathing problems and poor oxygen supply to the brain which may result in serious anxiety and fatigue if kept untreated for a long time.

Poor Diet

Having a balanced diet is one of the prerequisites for a good and healthy living. Healthy eating involves a good balance of fruits, vegetables, proteins, fibers, and essential nutrients.

If you have high cholesterol, it is best to cut out fatty foods and control your sugar intake. Too much sugar and fat in the diet can slow down the metabolic rate and make you feel lethargic. Include essential nutrients in your diet like omega-3 fatty acids and lean meat and fish that will keep you energized all day long. Drink plenty of water and juices to keep yourself hydrated especially during the summers.

Allergies

Some people have allergies to certain foods, smells, or dust. Allergic rhinitis can trigger chronic fatigue, but can only be ascertained after the proper diagnosis of a doctor.

Food allergies and intolerance to certain kinds of food can cause fatigue. Some people are allergic to dust, pollen, mold, and dander. Allergies can cause nasal congestion, headaches, and make you feel tired and fatigued.

Anemia

Iron-deficiency anemia is one of the prime reasons for chronic fatigue especially in older women and after childbirth. Women with heavy menstrual flow, uterine polyps, and fibroids can have anemia. Other causes of anemia are cancer, hemorrhoids, ulcers, diabetes, kidney diseases, etc.

Iron is a major component of red blood cells or RBCs. RBCs help to carry oxygen to all the parts of the body. A lack of iron hinders the normal flow of oxygen throughout the body and can cause fatigue and tiredness. Iron-rich food can replenish the iron needed to produce red blood cells and help the body to recover anemia.

Heart Problems

Heart abnormalities like smaller left ventricle, postural tachycardia, abnormal QT intervals, and inadequate flow of blood can cause serious heart problems.

Heart problems are very common in women and can cause cardiac failure and even death. Heart disease can make you feel fatigued even after the slightest exhaustion. If your fatigue is related to your heart, you should contact a doctor immediately.

Diabetes

Very high or low levels of blood sugar can cause chronic fatigue. Diabetic patients often suffer from sudden weight loss, increased hunger and thirst, and an increase in the frequency of urination. This can drain out your body and cause severe fatigue.

The high levels of sugar in your blood are not utilized in the body and on the other hand, if you have low sugar levels, the body is not getting enough fuel to carry out its daily activities. Either way, diabetic patients should maintain a balanced diet and control the blood sugar levels to overcome the symptoms of chronic fatigue.

Hypothyroidism

The thyroid gland is an important gland in our body and is responsible for releasing thyroid hormones in our bloodstream. It helps to maintain a balance in our metabolic rate and carries out other bodily functions.

Hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid gland is a condition where the thyroid gland is not producing enough thyroid hormones required by the body as a result of which there is a decrease in the metabolic rate. Hypothyroidism can cause severe fatigue, loss of energy, weight gain, depression, etc.

Caffeine Overdose

While a cup of coffee can charge you up even in the dull days, a caffeine overdose can dry you out, cause insomnia, heart palpitations, and irritation.

Some people are addicted to coffee, especially while they are working overtime. It is better not to get addicted to caffeine, as it can cause insomnia in the long run.

Sedentary Lifestyle

Woman with chronic fatigue

A sedentary lifestyle or lack of physical activity is a major concern in today’s life. Even small children are not devoid of it and spend most of the time indoors. This is why there is a rapid increase in stress levels, obesity, and other immune disorders.

Lack of physical activity can also affect your psychological health. Moreover, an unhealthy diet like eating fast foods and a lack of proper nutrition can cause obesity and other health disorders. It can lower down your metabolic rate and cause fatigue and anxiety.

Dehydration

Dehydration is the underlying cause of many diseases and chronic fatigue is one of them. Your body organs including the muscles need enough fluids and oxygen to carry out its daily activities. Lack of bodily fluids can create muscle cramps, decrease your blood volume levels, cause headaches, and make you feel lightheaded and fatigued.

Your body fails to drain out the toxins from your body due to an insufficient amount of water. Poor hydration is one of the major causes of chronic fatigue.

Diagnosis 

There are no particular tests available for diagnosing chronic fatigue. Diagnosis of chronic fatigue is very difficult as the patient might exhibit symptoms that are similar to other diseases like sleep disorder, depression, psychological problems, hypothyroidism, heart problems, etc.

So, after proper laboratory tests and ruling out other possible medical conditions, your doctor may look into symptoms that are suggestive of chronic fatigue.

Treatment

Treatment for chronic fatigue does not necessarily claim to cure the symptoms completely. It can improve the lifestyle and help the patient recover from the symptoms of the disorder.

There is no prescribed mode of treatment for chronic fatigue. The treatment generally depends on the severity of the disorder. Doctors try to find out which symptom is the most troublesome and prescribe medications or lifestyle changes to help the patient.

Chronic fatigue is a serious condition and many people are not aware of the severity of the disorder. The disorder is now recognized by doctors worldwide as a serious medical condition and people should reach out to their doctors immediately if they are experiencing any symptoms of chronic fatigue.

Couple sharing healthy diet
  • Medications – Sometimes a high dose of medications can be detrimental to a patient’s health. Doctors usually start with low-dose medications and gradually try to give relief to the patient.  
  • Change in Lifestyle – Sometimes a change in lifestyle can do wonders in a patient’s life. Proper physical activity, maintaining a well-balanced diet, meditation, exercises, and nutritional supplements can help chronic fatigue.
  • Boosting mental health – Often psychological problems are a major cause of chronic fatigue. Taking care of your mental health through medication, proper counseling, therapies, massage therapy, and breathing exercises can help you overcome the symptoms.
  • Counseling – Depression and anxiety can cause chronic fatigue and people should take medical help. Visit a counselor or a psychiatrist who can help you understand the underlying cause of your depression and guide you forward with life.
  • Healthy diet – Lack of proper nutrients and essential fluids can make you feel dehydrated and fatigued. Doctors will carry out certain tests and prescribe nutritional supplements to help you replenish the essential nutrients. Avoid smoking and lower caffeine and alcohol intake. Include more brain-friendly foods, fruits, vegetables, proteins, and fibers in your daily diet. Consult a dietician and consume natural and unprocessed foods.
  • Avoid stress – Stress is a major cause of chronic fatigue. Exam pressure, office commitments, and family problems can load up stress levels. Reaching out to friends and families can lower stress levels and are natural stress busters.
  • Memory boosters – Chronic fatigue, especially in older people, can result in memory loss. You can use a calendar or a day-to-day planner to write down major events. This will help you remember important dates and lead a more stress-free life. Memory games like puzzles, crosswords, and word games are mental exercises and will help to sharpen your memory. You can also use sticky notes to remember important dates.
  • Hobby classes – Take up a hobby class. This can keep you motivated and help you focus as well.

 

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