Dr. Tariq Jagnarine
Family Medicine/ Endocrinology

Fatigue is a term used to describe an overall feeling of tiredness, or lack of energy. It isn’t the same as simply feeling drowsy or sleepy. When you’re fatigued, you have no motivation and no energy. Being sleepy may be a symptom of fatigue, but it’s not the same thing.
Fatigue is a common symptom of many medical conditions that range in severity from mild to serious. It’s also a natural result of some lifestyle choices, such as lack of exercise or poor diet.
If fatigue doesn’t resolve itself with proper rest and nutrition, or is suspected to be caused by an underlying physical or mental health condition, one should see a doctor; doctors can help diagnose the cause of fatigue, and work to treat it.

There are many potential causes of fatigue. They can be divided into three general categories:
• Lifestyle factors
• Physical health conditions
• Mental health issues

For example, fatigue can result from:
• Physical exertion
• Lack of physical activity
• Lack of sleep
• Being overweight or obese
• Periods of emotional stress
• Boredom
• Grief
• Taking certain medications, such as antidepressants or sedatives
• Using alcohol regularly
• Using illicit drugs, such as cocaine
• Consuming too much caffeine
• Not eating a nutritious diet
• Physical health conditions.

Many medical
conditions can also cause
fatigue. Examples include:

• Anaemia
• Arthritis
• Fibromyalgia
• Chronic fatigue syndrome
• Infections, such as cold and flu
• Addison’s disease, a disorder that can affect your hormone levels
• Hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid
• Hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid
• Sleep disorders, such as insomnia
• Eating disorders, such as anorexia
• Autoimmune disorders
• Congestive heart failure
• Cancer
• Diabetes
• Kidney disease
• Liver disease
• Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
• Emphysema

Mental health issues
Mental health conditions can also lead to fatigue. For example, fatigue is a common symptom of anxiety, depression, and seasonal affective disorder.
See a doctor if:
• Can’t think of anything that might account for your fatigue
• Have a higher-than-normal body temperature
• Have experienced unexplained weight loss
• Feel very sensitive to colder temperatures
• Regularly have trouble falling or staying asleep
• Depressed
If efforts have been made to address the most common lifestyle causes, such as lack of rest, poor eating habits, and stress, without success, and the fatigue has continued for two weeks or more, make an appointment with a doctor.
In some cases, fatigue might be caused by a serious medical condition. Go to the hospital immediately if experiencing fatigue along with any of the following symptoms:
• Rectal bleeding
• Vomiting blood
• Severe headache
• Pain in your chest area
• Feelings of faintness
• Irregular heartbeat
• Shortness of breath
• Severe pain in the abdominal, back, or pelvic region
• Thoughts of suicide or self-harm
• Thoughts of harming another person

A doctor’s recommended treatment plan will depend on what’s causing the fatigue. To make a diagnosis, a doctor would likely ask questions about:
The nature of the fatigue; including when it started, and whether it gets better or worse at certain times
• Other symptoms
• Other medical conditions
• Lifestyle and sources of stress
• Medications’ use
Several measures can help lessen fatigue caused by daily activities. To help boost one’s energy levels and overall health:
• Drink enough fluids to stay hydrated
• Practise healthy eating habits
• Exercise regularly
• Get enough sleep
• Avoid known stressors
• Avoid work or social schedules that are overly demanding
• Take part in relaxing activities, such as yoga
• Abstain from alcohol, tobacco, and other illicit drugs.
These lifestyle changes may help ease fatigue. It’s also important to follow the doctor’s recommended treatment plan for any diagnosed health condition. If left untreated, fatigue can take a toll on one’s physical and emotional well-being.